Books: Survivor's Report

PLAY IT AS IT LAYS by Joan Didion. 214 pages. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $5.95.

If you like Joan Didion, you can count on her. Three pages into her new novel, the heroine says: "I am telling you how it was." That is the true Didion refrain. Whether in novels or essays, she is always trying to tell the way it is, always indicating the current physical and emotional temperature—it is usually over 100° outside and the climate of the soul is a parched desert.

For years she has had an enviable underground reputation, which Play it As It Lays will probably bring...

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