Maria (Mar-eye-a) is an actress married to a fairly prominent director. The action mostly takes place in LA and Las Vegas before the death of the character Maria’s husband thinks she killed. The book gets progressively more depressed. It feels like a repudiation of the hope of the liberal 60’s. I like bleak books. Existentialism appeals to me. I try not to cross over into nihilism. The line between the two to me in literature lies in the ability of the characters to create meaning rather than just enduring. Maria is decidedly the latter. I guess there is a little hope in that ability to endure, to play it as it lays to use the title and central metaphor of the book. Still it is a tough read.
That is not to say that I think the book is bad. The guy who wrote the introduction made a big deal about how people to whom he’s recommended the book talk about how unlikeable the main characters are. That is accurate. But it is a remarkably well crafted book that is unflinchingly honest about depression and for that reason alone I would recommend it to anyone who isn’t put off by that description. It makes me want to go back and reread the only other Didion I’ve read, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, a collection of essays. I don’t remember it well, but remember enjoying it. I will likely read this again, as it seems like the type of book that rewards it.