Sunday, January 24, 2016

Book Reviews: 'The Bell Jar' by Sylvia Plath and 'Play It As It Lays' by Joan Didion

I've debated including book reviews on this blog for a long time, because as much as I love TV and movies, I love books and reading just as much, and I love to write about the things I love. So, as it was a minor-league resolution of mine to write more on this blog in 2016 as I kinda dropped the ball in the second half of 2015, I've decided to introduce reviews of books I've read to Living on Guilty Pleasures!

1. The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath: I tried to read this book a couple months ago, and while I enjoyed it, it just wasn't the kind of book I was looking to read at the time, so I put it down and declared I would pick it up again later on. I decided, because it's short (only 244 pages), that I could read it quickly, which I did. The Bell Jar has to be one of if not the most hauntingly beautiful novel I've ever read. The storyline is a little hard to follow, given it takes place entirely in the narration and stream of consciousness of its main character, Esther Greenwood. The novel is considered an American classic as well as Plath's semi-autobiography, as several of the events in Esther's life are a fictionalized take on events in Plath's life. But, despite being a little hard to follow and one of those books that relies on the reader to piece things together and say, "Oh, that's what was happening," it was still a really good book and story. "To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is a bad dream." 3.5/5 stars.

2. Play It As It Lays, by Joan Didion: I have a lot of feelings about this book. While it has really nice descriptions and interesting character types, its storyline, somewhat like The Bell Jar but much worse, is REALLY hard to follow and the main protagonist, Maria (pronounced like Mariah, apparently, which annoyed me so in my head she was just Maria), remained incredibly hard to relate to even after the story was finished. A lot of the things she did didn't seem to have cause, she just went around screwing up her life without any regard for the people who cared about her. Also, I think the text is a bit homophobic for its use of the word "faggot" like an everyday word. I know it was the 70s, so maybe it was for the purpose of the story's time period which as we all know was more than a bit homophobic, but still, to me it felt a bit homophobic. I also think Maria's personal problems (strictly caused by her own actions) could've been remedied easier if her daughter, Kate, was actually in the story instead of just mentioned. According to the dust jacket description, Kate means a lot to Maria, but she isn't even in the story except for when Maria mentions her. But, despite all its faults, Play It As It Lays really did have some beautiful descriptions and I really enjoyed the chapters with Maria's narration towards the end. Fun fact: I read the first edition of this book from my library, and it was quite easy to tell it was from the 70s: Didion poses with a cigarette in hand on the back. 2.5/5 stars.

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