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Democracy Paperback – April 25, 1995

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (April 25, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679754857
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679754855
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #440,951 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


A gem . . . a beautifully composed story that moves with effortless authority and becomes astonishingly moving. . . . Stirring and memorable." —Newsday"Striking, provocative, and brilliantly written." —The Atlantic

From the Inside Flap

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.

More About the Author

Joan Didion was born in California and lives in New York City. She is the author of five novels and seven previous books of nonfiction. Joan Didion's Where I Was From, Political Fictions, The Last Thing He Wanted, After Henry, Miami, Democracy, Salvador, A Book of Common Prayer, and Run River are available in Vintage paperback.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By algo41 on December 30, 2004
Format: Paperback
Didion has a unique, powerful style. It reminds me of Joseph Heller's Catch 22 in its irony and suppressed rage, but Didion's prose is just so elegant. "Democracy" is both a romantic and a political novel, with both themes beautifully intertwined. This is an exceptional work. Didion's heroine reminds one of several of her other heroines, coming from a background where she is expected to be an adornment and where the strains of playing that role take a psychological toll. In Democracy, the heroine is psychologically stronger than in some of the other novels, plays on a larger canvas, and is ultimately able to more successfully express her inner strengths and morality. Interestingly, Didion injects herself into the novel as the narrator, and yes, Didion did work briefly at Vogue, and of course was both a reporter and a novelist. My guess is that the conceit of starting to write one novel, and ultimately writing a different one, was probably accurate.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Lohr E. Miller on May 29, 2007
Format: Paperback
Joan Didion's "Democracy" is worth reading for the style alone. There's nothing to match Didion at the top of her form, as in "A Book of Common Prayer" or "Salvador", and "Democracy" is as good as anything she's ever written: austere, pitiless, unblinking, tinged with irony dry as the finest gin. Here we are in Hawaii in 1975 as Saigon falls and the American Century unravels, and Didion moves back and forth between a tropic lushness and the chaos in Vietnam, telling a love story that reaches back to the days when Honolulu was still a dreamy colonial outpost and outward to the ugly side of American electoral politics. She sums up her characters-- and her countrymen --near the end: believers in the "American exemption", believers in the idea that individual wishes and efforts can change a world shaped by too much history and too many faceless forces. She gives us Jack Lovett, too, her central male figure-- player and fixer in the clandestine games of the Cold War in Asia, lover of the teenaged Inez Victor, rescuer of Inez's drug-addled daughter, who runs off in April 1975 to be a waitress in Saigon. "Democracy" should be paired with Didion's "The Last Thing He Wanted"--- both letter-perfect treatments of love and family and the frayed edges of empire.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jon Linden VINE VOICE on March 6, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Didion's style in this book is truly arresting. At points, the reader is just stopped, in consideration of what the author has just revealed. Her book is interesting in its style. She does in fact talk to the reader several times through the book. She develops the characters in glimpses and the plot as well; as she moves through the story of her protagonist's life. She describes a prior attempt at Democracy, that did not come to fruition. And she mixes in a dash of American Democracy and its elections and nominations.

Set in circa 1975 mostly, it speaks about the end of the Viet Nam war, but through the side long glances of people who were involved, but not talking about the fighting. Her depiction of the era and the locales is very precise, despite its exposition in little bits and pieces. The story is gripping, although not suspenseful. The book surely does exhibit Didion in one of her best written fictional books.

As a journalistically styled piece the book does a very fine job of helping people start to understand the ephemeral attitude of the people and the country in the days of the war. Disillusionment abounds. Death and destruction and human suffering are implied, but not explicitly discussed. And the message, that of one who is always trying to find oneself, but may be lost in her own mind, is universal.

The book is especially recommended for readers who are interested in the late `60's early `70's era in America. The book is truly a fine piece of literature, surrounded by events and scenery, much more than driven by the plot. But the statement is well worth reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By scottiechris on October 22, 2010
Format: Paperback
"Democracy" is a powerful, even haunting story contemporary to the 1975 U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam. It follows the life of Inez Christian Victor, a US Senator's wife, who becomes disillusioned with the artificial, disingenuous world of her husband's political career. This becomes the catalyst for a personal unraveling, and ultimately, a discovery of her truer convictions. The reader is taken back and forth through Inez's past, her familial and societal conflicts, and especially her romance with Jack Lovett, an operative of a government agency dealing in arms procurement in southeast Asia in the 1950's, '60's and '70's. The cost to a culture of forgetting its history is clearly one of the main themes of the book, but there are others, all woven together in a rich tropical colored tapestry.
"Democracy" is one of my favorite novels, though for a long time I would have been hard pressed to explain exactly why. I have read it several times over the years and each time I find new things to appreciate in it. It has always seemed to me to be surprisingly moving, but as time has gone on seems now more personal, even more relevant, and for a twenty-five year old work of fiction that is impressive.
Don't expect a linear narrative, or a conventional style of writing. The book has neither. The author herself describes it as a book of "fitful glimpses" but in truth the writing is thoughtful, very tight and quite distinctive. I will always think of Inez in Kuala Lumpar, explaining why she remains there: "Colors, moisture, heat, enough blue in the air." A great Didion line, with just the right touch of romantic fatalism that admirers of her earlier work will appreciate.
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