This is a novel about memory, personal and political It is a masterpiece Democracy is Joan Didion s fourth novel, preceded by Run River, Play It As It Lays and A Book of Common Prayer It was published in 1984 The novel takes place between Honolulu and Jakarta at the hemorrhaging end of the Vietnam War It is written as a kind of memoir of Inez Victor, wife of U.S Senator Harry Victor, told from the perspective of a peculiar narrator The narrator is none other than Joan Didion She is also the self conscious author of the novel and explains to the reader how this narrative could have been written differently, interjecting the authorial voice within its narrative It is a stunning literary achievement and this device is remarkably effective I found myself reading passages twice as she talks about how they were constructed and why The technique is so effective that you ll be craving its craftiness in whatever you read next. The first meeting of Inez Christian and Jack Lovett at the ballet the beginning of Lovett s grave attraction that would last over twenty years is the sexiest scene I ve read in a while Cissy Christian smoking a cigarette in her white jade holder Inez, wearing dark glassespinning and repinning a gardenia in her damp hair This is our niece, Inez, Dwight Christian said Inez, Major Lovett Jack Inez, Mrs Lovett Carla A breath of air, a cigarette This champagne is lukewarm One glass won t hurt you, Inez, it s your birthday Inez s birthday Inez is seventeen Inez s evening, really Inez is our balletomane Why are you wearing sunglasses, Jack Lovett said.Inez Christian, startled, touched her glasses as if to remove them and then, looking at Jack Lovett, brushed her hair back instead, loosening the pins that held the gardenia.Inez Christian smiled.The gardenia fell into the wet grass I used to know all the generals at Schofield, Cissy Christian said Great fun out there Then I m sure Jack Lovett did not take his eyes from Inez Great polo players, some of them, Cissy Christian said I don t suppose you get much time to play I don t play, Jack Lovett said.Inez Christian closed her eyes.Carla Lovett drained her paper cup and crushed it in her hand Inez is seventeen, Dwight Christian repeated I think I want a real drink, Carla Lovett said. 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 , 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 VietnamAs 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 When I first read this book in 1984 I was absolutely staggered Immediately, I flipped back to the beginning and read it again I m sure I ve read it a couple oftimes since, and this latest re read has merely confirmed that this must be my all time favorite book Although I ve been land locked for the past number of years, I am in essence a person of the Pacific, and Didion s book IS the Pacific.Still, it s a complicated little book and demandsfrom the reader than most One must pay attention to all the tiny details and havethan a passing knowledge of the locales from Hawaii, to Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and the scattered islands in between Guam, Kwajalein, Johnston including the names of the airports, the capitals and the history of these places in the 50s, 60s, 70s.The title is curious I ve never heard a definitive explanation for it, only hints of it being compared to Henry Adams book of the same title My take is that it s an ironic title The book is actually about American colonialism our original takeover of Hawaii and our hubris in thinking a war in Vietnam was 1 winnable and 2 appreciated by that country.But mostly I love this book for the sound of it the prose is like poetry and begs to be read aloud It is, in fact, a mystery, a romance, and a political critique but clothed in shear elegance. Structurally this book sort of demolished my mind I m in awe. Solitudine emotivaDal punto di vista estetico, il libro piacevolissimo, scritto in modo ricercato ma molto scorrevole Le frasi sono brevi e quella che segue spesso definisce meglio la precedente, lasciando il tempo al lettore di assaporare l immagine o l idea Si vede bella gente che si muove in splendide ville con giardini e piscine o alberghi di lusso, su sfondi tropicali.Le difficolt della vita sono smussate da amici e collaboratori che offrono drink e cercano voli e sistemazioni discrete Tutto gradevole e garbato Mi piaciuto Mi sono sfuggite completamente le intenzioni dell autrice Come mai mescola il ritiro USA da Saigon con una storia di sguardi fra una giovane possibile first lady e un affascinante uomo d affari che conosce tutti e del quale sembra che non ci sia nulla da sapere Perch ci propone il deus ex machina della signora Inez Victor, nata Christian, come un sobrio gentleman pieno di ottime qualit organizzative e relazionali, come se noi potessimo immaginare un trafficante d armi solo in abiti stazzonati, avvolto nel fumo del sigaro e dai modi grossolani Noi non lo pensiamo Poi addirittura mi viene in mente un altro libro ambientato a Saigon, Niente e cos sia, e il minimo che io possa dire che c una certa diversit di spessore, ma sono sicura che Didion ha scritto quello che voleva scrivere Non un reportage ma una storia che raccontasse uno stato d animo di distacco, post smobilitazione di Saigon, post tutto Probabilmente a suo modo aveva intenti provocatori, dato che in piena era No nukes ricorda con elegia il rosa del cielo sugli atolli prima degli esperimenti atomici nel corso degli anni gli intenti sono un po svaporati, lasciandosi dietro un idea di americano sull albero Ho dimenticato di chiederle perch Democracy il contenuto suggerisce di pi Oligarchy Forse, i postumi del sarcasmo. At nearly the halfway point the Intermission of Democracy Didion, in a meta moment warns or reminds the reader with I am resisting narrative here She s not lying Actually, the reader is placed on notice as early as chapter 2 where the author seems triggered by some images from a Wallace Stevens poem toward writing, in a half assed way, a novel But, c ards on the table, she informs the reader she s at a point in her life where she Didion lacks certainty But Vietnam, even ten years out Democracy came out in 1984 would be hard to sort out Maybe it was writer s block, maybe she was hoping to write another zeitgeist novel, like her terrific send up of the sixties, Play It as It Lays Who knows All of that said, Didion then launches the construction of her main characters, soldier of fortune type, Jack Lovett and the very Didion like Inez Victor, wife of a failed politician She actually gets off to an interesting and evocative start with family history, money, clothes lots of them , but as this short novel unfolds Didion reliesandon fast moving dialogue she s a master , and quickly changing events without the necessary connective tissue of narrative There s a murder or two, and on the periphery of things the fall of Vietnam it s 1975 I suppose there could be a metaphor in there, but I don t really care The novel fails, and if it wasn t for Didion s name and fame, this book would have long faded from memory as an out of print item Yes, I did give it two stars Didion is a first rate writer with a bad novel You can still find some great moments and conversations, even if as a whole the novel is thin and unsatisfying If you want a savage and excellent home front book on Vietnam and its moral costs, I recommend Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone. Aloha oeSofisticata, enigmatica, esotica, raffinata.Questa potrebbe essere la descrizione di Inez Victor, la protagonista di Democracy.Ma si potrebbe dire le stesso di Honolulu, teatro di gran parte della storia.O di Saigon.O di Giacarta.O anche, per certi versi, di Joan Didion.O della sua scrittura.Affascinante, affascinanti.Succede a Honolulu, dunque, ma non solo, e la sensazione predominante, quella che resta, quella che lascia un retrogusto amaro, di aver assistito a una rappresentazione da dietro le quinte, di aver osservato dal backstage il muoversi degli attori, e di aver alzato, Joan Didion per noi, un velo.L epoca quella, enigmatica anch essa, in cui in Vietnam, come in Cambogia, come a Giacarta, alle ingerenze nelle questioni di politica interna, nelle guerre civili o negli interventi ufficiali, gli Stati Uniti affiancano l intervento, nell ombra, di strani faccendieri, forse agenti segreti, che ufficialmente si occupano di estrarre i cittadini USA da nazioni ormai diventate pericolose, per riportarli in patria, mentre nella realt ma sapremo mai, noi, la realt delle cose, chi era veramente Jack Lovett e qual la realt in questa storia trafficano in armi, in denaro , forse, intrigano con il governo ma quale governo e da che parte stanno e poi, come ogni spia che si rispetti finiscono per innamorarsi della persona sbagliata ma poi qual la persona giusta.E poi c Inez Victor, protagonista defilata, centro decentrato, ma luminoso e sfaccettato diamante dell universo di Democracy , moglie di Harry Victor, senatore del congresso, eterno candidato alla presidenza irrequieta, defilata, inseguita dalla stampa alla quale riesce quasi sempre a sottrarsi bella, conturbante, figlia di una ricca famiglia di Honolulu, la cui storia altrettanto conturbante, irrequieta, inseguita dalla stampa.Joan Didion irrompe nel romanzo sin dall inizio con un coup de th tre, esibisce da subito gli strumenti del mestiere, mette le carte in tavola, le scopre, e poi abilmente le scombina con il suo disordinato andare avanti e indietro nel tempo, facendole apparire e scomparire dove il lettore non si aspetterebbe di vederglielo fare si diverte gi , chi non ha aperto Google in cerca di notizie su dovequando a mantenere la storia in equilibrio fra fiction e non fiction, fra romanzo e reportage, a creare l illusione, nel lettore, di essere finalmente riuscito a svelare un mistero, di avere assistito a una parte di storia fino a quel momento negata a tutti A tutti coloro che non fanno parte della storia, quella dei cocktail e delle luci a bordo piscina, degli aerei privati che decollano nelle notti profumate delle Hawaii, delle residenze coloniali dove arrivano attutite le notizie di fughe, di incendi, di esplosioni, di morte, dietro quella patina fatta di abiti leggeri e impalpabili, di sorrisi tirati, di verit conosciute da nessuno ma sussurrate da tutti.E poi vira, Joan Didion, vira sul porpora, quando racconta di Inez e di Jack Lovett, di quel magnetismo che solo le sue parole, e i loro sguardi, riescono a narrare, regalando alla storia una storia d a o di magnetismo che ha il profumo di gardenie e jacaranda, la carezza dei venti tropicali, il respiro di una passione che, come gi quella che Graham Green raccontava in Un Americano Tranquillo, ha i colori cupi di una fine che sembra gi annunciata.Ma con Joan Didion ormai, l ho capito, l abbiamo capito, non c mai niente di veramente annunciato, nemmeno quando la storia inizia dalla sua fine perch la fine nota, ma non dettoComunque siamo stati insieme disse Siamo stati insieme tutta la vita Se conta il pensiero https youtu.be XZiX0oO3Ls Damn, so many of the reviews for this book are terrible I kind of want to get a gazillion votes for this review just so that it will come before some of the nonsense in the other reviews Any talk of post modernism or meta fiction or there being too many characters in this novel there aren t that many,than say the one in certain Beckett works, but less than in a Dickens or Pynchon novel , also plug the ears in your head that listen when you are reading to any of cries that the book is dull or that harp too heavily upon the plot for better or for worse Just ignore all that stuff and probably most of what I m going to say too, but not really because I want you to read this and I want your vote, it s important to me to get ahead of these other reviews The only thing you need to know about this book is that it is crushingly beautiful Not flowery pretty, or the literary equivalent of some replaceable blond starlet that graces the cover of gossip mags but awkwardly gorgeous, insert your own parallelism to the blond starlet here The book starts The light at dawn during those Pacific tests was something to see.Something to behold.Something that could almost make you think you saw God, he said.He said to her.Jack Lovett said to Inez Victor.Inez Victor who was born Inez Christian.These short sentence long paragraphs could have been condensed into something like, The light at dawn during those Pacific tests was something to see They were something to behold and almost make you think you saw God, Jack Lovett said to Inez Victor nee Christian Instead, Didion pulls the reader immediately into an intimacy between the two characters Without having to say it the signals are present that these people share a closeness, it s like some of the great opening sentences from Raymond Carver stories that paint whole nuanced paintings with broadly sparse paint strokes It s never said where Jack Lovett says these words to Inez Victor, who was born Inez Christian, but the repetitions that move slowly in on to the subjects being said feel like an intimacy of two people laying close to one another, as opposed to the simple way I rewrote this section to read like something someone is saying to someone someplace that could be anyone and anywhere I love the way she opens this book, and I d go quoting a bit , but at the next line she pulls back the perspective a little and gives a longer paragraph describing parts of the scene surrounding a the atomic bomb tests, and I don t really like quoting long blocks of text Throughout the book, Didion moves between different perspectives, controlling them through the way she chooses to write, instead of always having to explicitly state what she is trying to achieve She does get explicit at times, and some reviewers seemed to find this annoying since she inserts herself, as the author, into the work, but I d argue it isn t a literary trick she s pulling but uses it as a way to move about the themes of the novel If the story were told from a traditional third person point of view quite a bit would be lost Partially this is a novel about perspective, about the past and history and stories and it s about myths, and where the truth lies between all of what I just rambled out like a grocery list I feel like I m sort of rewriting my defense of the narrator for the YA book, The Book Thief I guess I am Good read that review for someon this I guess This isn t an exciting book The basic plot of the whole novel is given in the first couple of chapters Most of the story the reader knows before the book is half way through Roughly it s about some events that happen in the Spring of 1975 as the United States is preparing to evacuate from Vietnam The historical events taking place are mixed with the personal lives of the characters and the reader is left to draw the lines between macro and micro happenings and can use the books title Democracy as an ideal and an irony when applied to an export to third world countries at the barrel of a gun to construct a myriad of themes There are quite a few different readings this book could be given, and for such a short novel Didion manages to pack a lot of big Ideas into the work Even though there are a lot of big Ideas at work Didion never grabs the reader and forces him or her to have to confront them The novel could be enjoyed as a love story, or a family tragedy or as a slightlyhumanist perspective to the world that James Ellroy s Blood s a Rover frolics in But none of that last paragraph is really that important to know What is important to know is that the book is gorgeous It s the kind of book that can be savored for the way the author deftly moves along, I guess like literature for literatures sake I d almost not want to recommend other people to read it, I might feel hurt if they didn t find it as good as I did, but I will recommend it But only to readers who I know aren t reading novels just to get from point A to point B.P.S I kind of want to read everything by Joan Didion now I think she might even move into my favorite writers category Sort of like Don DeLillo and Cynthia Ozick, I just didn t pay much attention to her and now I think I might have been depriving myself of something awesome I m going to cautiously call her an up and coming favorite of mine until I read a couple ofbooks It makes me so happy when I realize there are great writers whom I never paid much attention to and now I can look forward to reading them. At first sight the words charm and harm differ in one letter only but the contrast in their meaning is dramatic Strangely enough, Democracy by Joan Didion has charmed me and harmed me at the same time Democracy has charmed me The first thing that enchanted me instantly was Joan Didion s writing style I ve never experienced anything like that before The unsettling, highly addictive rhythm of her sentences, with many cadenced repetitions and anaphoras, resonated with me like music which goes smoothly straight to your heart I was flabbergasted by Didion s ability to affect me so much with so few words Isaac Babel points out,No iron can stab the heart with such force as a period put just at the right placeand it seems so true in Joan Didion s case also Although Democracy provokes strong emotions, it s far from sentimental Her style is harsh at times, like her characters Ah, the way she depicts the feelings flowing between Inez and Jack every time they meet It made me think of Casablanca scarce words, extreme tension.The descriptions in Democracy are concise but the world she paints with words bursts with colours and smellsWhen Inez remembered that week in Jakarta in 1969 she remembered mainly the cloud cover that hung low over the city and trapped the fumes of sewage and automobile exhaust and rotting vegetation as in a fetid greenhouse She remembered the cloud cover and she remembered lightning flickering on the horizon before dawn and she remembered rain washing wild orchids into the milky waste ditches Trying to analyze the mechanisms Joan Didion uses to make her prose so original and mesmerizing, would be like catching her words in the net and pinning them like exotic butterflies Sorry, I m not going to do that I prefer to let them float around me and watch them in awe and just sense them with delight.As for topics and genres, Democracy reminds me of a multilayered cake Don t expect any sweetness though It slike a strong espresso which will burn your lips and make your heart pulsate faster You will discover many floors of Didion s amazing construction Politics, modern history, family, love, writing a novel, being a writer, to name just a few It s a novel, a love story, a crime story, a reportage and an essay at the same time The narrator is Joan Didion herself who happens to know some characters in person and who shares thoughts about creating this novel and writing in general The structure of Democracy made me also think of a film Gosh, the scene in the bar could be dazzling, with Inez dancing not as you or I or the agency that regulated dancing in bars might have defined dancing.My experience with this novel proves that reaching out of comfort zone can be extremely rewarding It was Orsodimondo, who got me interested in Joan Didion s works, and I am very grateful for his encouragement Democracy has harmed me Everything I try to read now seems tasteless and colourless compared to Joan Didion s novel.
Joan Didion was born in California and lives in New York City She s best known for her novels and her literary journalism Her novels and essays explore the disintegration of American morals and cultural chaos, where the overriding theme is individual and social fragmentation A sense of anxiety or dread permeates much of her work.
- 234 pages
- Joan Didion
- 05 September 2018 Joan Didion