Somewhere out beyond Hollywood, hollowed-out actress Maria Wyeth’s life plays out in a numbing routine of perpetual freeway driving. Anaesthetized to pain and pleasure, she is seemingly unaffected by her fraught personal history. In her early thirties, divorced from her husband, dislocated from friends, and somehow detached from her past and future, Wyeth epitomises a generation made ill by too much freedom. Set beyond good and evil – literally in Los Angeles and the barren wastescapes of the Mojave desert, and figuratively in the landscapes of a broken spirit – Play It As It Lays is an immaculately wrought vision of Californian culture on the cusp of the 1970s. Three decades after its original publication, the novel remains an intense dissection of a very particular time and place.