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Democracy by Joan Didion
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Democracy (1984)

by Joan Didion

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The first few pages were interesting. That's what the first few pages were. The rest of part one was a veritable bore, in spite of the chopped up narrative, never living up to what seemed to be its promise. Most memorable was the misspelling of rijsttafel as rijstaffel. Was it on purpose? Does it mean anything? Does a rice table undermine the grand narrative in ways the rest of the book tries but fails? Part two and three decided to change into something akin to a normal narrative, but that didn't improve the book any. Still, at least my enjoyment of the book oscillated by this point, perhaps even with a vaguely upward trend.

In the end, Democracy is a quick, boring read with a mildly interesting ironic narrative gimmick. The constant false starts and repetitions are presumably meant to undermine the grand narratives of modernity, those of the American democracy in particular. Instead we get a dull soap opera with lifeless characters dressed up in a thin veneer of literary play.

Cross-posted from my blog. ( )
  Frenzie | Jul 20, 2016 |
Didion has a wonderful ear for dialogue and this novel, short as it is, manages to touch on some very weighty themes. And, allows us to see ourselves as only others can. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
I found this book to be a bit of a political eye-opener. The theme is democracy, viewed from many angles. The timeline is primarily during the Vietnam years and centers on an American family of businessmen and politicians. The novel is more about what Didion sees as the corruptive nature of public service itself. She maintains that ''the assistance effort'' in Vietnam to be ''a specifically commercial enterprise'' and is concerned with ''the whole skein of threads necessary to transfer the phantom business predicated on the perpetuation of the assistance effort.’' I would recommend this book for readers who are interested in the late `60's early `70's era in America. ( )
  EadieB | Jan 19, 2016 |
Huh? 160 pages later. Huh? I love Joan Didion and respect her unique intelligence but this is one that has no bridge from her mind to mine. ( )
  ronsea | Jan 1, 2016 |
somewhere between 2.5 and 3 stars. this is strangely written (both in prose style and in the fact that she inserts herself as author, as didion into the book). for the first 25 or 30 pages that distracted me, then i got over it and found i enjoyed the book much more. i think the title is probably brilliant at all it hints at and all the underlying issues it speaks to. the rest of the book was less so to me, although i enjoyed it. ( )
  elisa.saphier | Apr 2, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679754857, Paperback)

Inez Victor knows that the major casualty of the political life is memory. But the people around Inez have made careers out of losing track. Her senator husband wants to forget the failure of his last bid for the presidency. Her husband's handler would like the press to forget that Inez's father is a murderer. And, in 1975, the year in which much of this bitterly funny novel is set, America is doing its best to lose track of its one-time client, the lethally hemorrhaging republic of South Vietnam.As conceived by Joan Didion, these personages and events constitute the terminal fallout of democracy, a fallout that also includes fact-finding junkets, senatorial groupies, the international arms market, and the Orwellian newspeak of the political class. Moving deftly from Honolulu to Jakarta, between romance, farce, and tragedy, Democracy is a tour de force from a writer who can dissect an entire society with a single phrase.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:14 -0400)

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