The Last Thing He Wanted (Vintage International) (Paperback)

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An earlier book from Joan Didion, Play It As It Lays is one of my all-time favourites, and this novel holds that same tension of language; to quote: From John Weir - The New Yorker, "Didion's fiction is no less indispensable than her five books of essays and reportage are....There's an animating tension in Didion's fiction between her achingly sure control as storyteller and stylist and the numbing vagueness of the people she depicts....Didion's novels are thus simultaneously lucid and surreal." She's both the only current novelist engaged enough to capture the language and manners of our government-by-espionage and the only one capable of sentences as shimmeringly seductive and mysterious as "The best story I ever told was a reef dream." You want to spin that sentence in the air and admire how cleanly it falls.

— From Alison


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This intricate, fast-paced story, whose many scenes and details fit together like so many pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, is Didion's incisive and chilling look at a modern world where things are not working as they should and where the oblique and official language is as sinister as the events it is covering up.

The narrator introduces Elena McMahon, estranged from a life of celebrity fundraisers and from her powerful West Coast husband, Wynn Janklow, whom she has left, taking Catherine, her daughter, to become a reporter for The Washington Post. Suddenly walking off the 1984 campaign, she finds herself boarding a plane for Florida to see her father, Dick McMahon. She becomes embroiled in her Dick's business though "she had trained herself since childhood not to have any interest in what he was doing." It is from this moment that she is caught up in something much larger than she could have imagined, something that includes Ambassador-at-Large Treat Austin Morrison and Alexander Brokaw, the ambassador to an unnamed Caribbean island. 

Into this startling vision of conspiracies, arms dealing, and assassinations, Didion makes connections among Dallas, Iran-Contra, and Castro, and points up how "spectral companies with high-concept names tended to interlock." As this book builds to its terrifying finish, we see the underpinnings of a dark historical underbelly. This is our system, the one "trying to create a context for democracy and getting [its] hands a little dirty in the process."

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.

Praise For…

"Gripping...Didion at her finest." —USA Today"Simultaneously lucid and surreal . . . the result is entrancing." —The New Yorker"Remarkable. . . . Didion has created a menacing world where the reader is held hostage." —Los Angeles Times"Dark detail, understatement and intelligence work their astonishing magic." —The New York Times Book Review
Product Details
ISBN: 9780679752851
ISBN-10: 0679752854
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: September 2nd, 1997
Pages: 240
Language: English
Series: Vintage International