Down With Democracy

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.

Joan Didion (1984), Democracy.

★★½

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