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.From the Trade Paperback edition.
I honestly love this book. For those of you who are not fans of Didion's style of writing this book is not for you. But for those who are fans this one is a must read.read more
What stands out to me in Democracy:First, the terse, self-important narrator, who can sound too much like a crime detective forcing herself into the story. But then:Second, how the privileged homes of politicians and businessmen breed a separateness between children and parents, between husband and wife. Members of the families adapt with greed or escapism. Didion has a remarkable ability to capture this in the dialogue.Third, how women, tired of being alienated from others and/or themselves, desert their families, as first suggested early in the novel: "Inez remembered her mother dancing.... You will notice that the daughters in romantic stories always remember their mothers dancing, or about to leave for the dance: these dance-bound mothers materialize in the darkened nursery...in a cloud of perfume, a burst of light off a diamond hair clip. They glance in the mirror. They smile. They do not linger, for this is one of those moments in which the interests of mothers are seen to diverge sharply from the wishers of daughters. These mothers get on with it. These mothers lean for a kiss and leave for the dance" (pp. 21-22).Fourth, the most compelling thing about this novel, for me, was the elusive protagonists. I woke up each morning wondering if I would grow any closer to them. As the narrator describes it: "I can remember a moment in which Harry Victor seemed to present himself precisely as he was and I can remember a moment in which Dwight Christian seemed to present himself precisely as he was and I can remember such moments about most people I have known, so ingrained by now is the impulse to define the personality, show the character, but I have no memory of any one moment in which either Inez Victor of Jack Lovett seemed to spring out, defined. They were equally evanescent, in some way emotionally invisible; unattached, way to the point of opacity, and finally elusive. They seemed not to belong anywhere at all, except, oddly, together." (pp. 83-84)Overall, I would recommend Democracy to people I suspect would find Didion's elusive characters intriguing, her snarky dialogue telling, her objective storytelling unique, and her scope--both emotional and geographic--compelling.read more