MLA Platinum Award Press Release

South and West: Book summary and reviews of South and West by Joan Didion

South and West

From a Notebook

by Joan Didion

South and West by Joan Didion X
South and West by Joan Didion
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' rating:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published in USA  Mar 2017
    160 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this book

Book Summary

From the best-selling author of the National Book Award-winning The Year of Magical Thinking: two extended excerpts from her never-before-seen notebooks - writings that offer an illuminating glimpse into the mind and process of a legendary writer.

Joan Didion has always kept notebooks: of overheard dialogue, observations, interviews, drafts of essays and articles - and here is one such draft that traces a road trip she took with her husband, John Gregory Dunne, in June 1970, through Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. She interviews prominent local figures, describes motels, diners, a deserted reptile farm, a visit with Walker Percy, a ladies' brunch at the Mississippi Broadcasters' Convention. She writes about the stifling heat, the almost viscous pace of life, the sulfurous light, and the preoccupation with race, class, and heritage she finds in the small towns they pass through.

And from a different notebook: the "California Notes" that began as an assignment from Rolling Stone on the Patty Hearst trial of 1976. Though Didion never wrote the piece, watching the trial and being in San Francisco triggered thoughts about the city, its social hierarchy, the Hearsts, and her own upbringing in Sacramento. Here, too, is the beginning of her thinking about the West, its landscape, the western women who were heroic for her, and her own lineage, all of which would appear later in her acclaimed 2003 book, Where I Was From..

Read a Sample

Click to the right or left of the sample to turn the page.
(If no book jacket appears in a few seconds, then we don't have an excerpt of this book or your browser is unable to display it)

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. The reader gets the sense she is eavesdropping on the past, and these conversations, haunting in their prescience, are difficult to forget...This is important reading for today, but it is essential reading for the future." - Library Journal

"Students of social history, fans of Didion, and those seeking a quick, engaging read will appreciate this work: the raw immediacy of unedited prose by a master has an urgency that more polished works often lack." - Publishers Weekly

"Didion's notes are remarkably polished and slicing in their response to place, conversations overheard and instigated, perceptions of social attitudes, and detection of hypocrisy, irony, and injustice; they shimmer with dark implications. A book for her many avid readers, and anyone interested in the mysterious process of writing." - Booklist

"An almost spectral text haunted by a past that never seems distant." - Kirkus

"[Where I Was From] is weirdly prescient - pointing the way not only to where she would go as a writer but also a path the country would take in the years to come." - New York Times

"The pleasures of this short book…are found in observing the South through Didion's eyes. She is particularly sensitive to Southerners' relationship to history, a relationship that stands in sharp contrast to the prevailing attitude in California." - The New York Times Book Review

"You'll learn more about America's future from Didion's 40-year-old field notes...than you will from tomorrow's newspaper." - Esquire

"[South and West: From a Notebook] reveals the author at her most fascinatingly unfiltered. ... Captures the thrill of a writer discovering her richest subject: the American mythologies that governed her own romantic girlhood." - Vogue

"There's a universal rule against reading someone else's diary - but in this case, it's not just OK, it's required reading." - Marie Claire

"Vintage Didion. ... Remind[s] us of her brilliance as a stylist, social commentator and observer." - The Washington Post

"Elegant, eerily prescient. ... At once informal and immediate, magisterial and indelible." - Elle

"In these two pieces, Didion isn't so much seeing the country as she is x-raying it, cataloging the presenting symptoms of the ailing republic. ... [This] volume will persist in the memory." - The Village Voice

"Intimate, yet preternaturally detached, as though her matchless ear bears witness from the beyond." - The Boston Globe

"Exemplif[ies] Didion's signature brand of reportorial haiku—her pitiless camera eye, razor-sharp wit and telling techniques of self-deprecation that only bring the reader ... further along for the ride." - San Francisco Chronicle

"Deeply personal. ... Offer[s] new insight into a formative time in the author's life." - Rolling Stone

"One of contemporary literature's most revered essayists revives her raw records from a 1970s road trip across the American southwest ... her acute observations of the country's culture and history feel particularly resonant today." - Harper's Bazaar

"Vintage Didion, idiosyncratic and tantalizingly self-revealing." - USA Today

"Compelling ... rooted utterly in a past now all but lost to us, while also incredibly timely and relevant." - Los Angeles Review of Books

"If this is how Didion's notebooks read, let's have them all. ... The form suits her particular brilliance: the ability to sequence arresting sentences, crammed with observation and insight, and let them generate their own momentum." - Minneapolis Star Tribune

"A marvelous time capsule. ... Fascinating documents spiked with virtuosic turns. ... Cast[s] light backward and forward on her work, illuminating her reportorial process and the themes she would develop in later novels and nonfiction." - Vulture

"[Didion's] idiosyncratic genius is in full evidence in South and West. ... Didion seemed to be aware that she was recording a singular moment in the culture. ... She did not want to transcend the madness of the day, escape it, but rather to capture it completely." - Newsweek

The information about South and West shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year
  • More about membership!

Author Information

Joan Didion Author Biography

Photo © 2003 Colleen Guaitolini

Joan Didion is the highly respected author of five novels, several non-fiction books (including Slouching Towards Bethlehem and Political Fictions), and five screenplays co-authored with her husband John Gregory Dunne (including A Star is Born and Up Close & Personal). Her chronicle of the year after her husband died, The Year of Magical Thinking won the 2005 National Book Award (USA). She was born in California and lives in New York City.

In 2007, Didion received the National Book Foundation's annual Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. The same year, Didion also won the Evelyn F. Burkey Award from the Writers Guild of America. In 2009, she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by Harvard University.

On July 3, 2013 the White House announced Didion is one ...

... Full Biography

Other books by Joan Didion at BookBrowse
  • The Year of Magical Thinking jacket
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year
  • More about membership!

More Recommendations

Readers Also Browsed . . .

more biography/memoir...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Join Now!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Tokyo Ueno Station
    Tokyo Ueno Station
    by Yu Miri
    Kazu is a ghost, seemingly condemned to haunt one of Japan's busiest train stations, the grounds of ...
  • Book Jacket
    Delayed Rays of a Star
    by Amanda Lee Koe
    Amanda Lee Koe's Delayed Rays of a Star begins with a late-1920s photo of three women at a party in ...
  • Book Jacket: Sleepovers
    Sleepovers
    by Ashleigh Bryant Phillips
    In Ashleigh Bryant Phillips' debut story collection, Sleepovers, it can be difficult to keep tabs on...
  • Book Jacket
    The Beekeeper of Aleppo
    by Christy Lefteri
    In Christy Lefteri's sophomore novel, The Beekeeper of Aleppo, the author introduces readers to ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Voyage of the Morning Light
    by Marina Endicott

    A sweeping novel set aboard a merchant ship sailing through the South Pacific in 1912.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Beekeeper of Aleppo
by Christy Lefteri

This moving, intimate, and beautifully written novel puts human faces on the Syrian war.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Book Club Giveaway!
Win The Wedding Thief

The Wedding Thief
by Mary Simses

Funny, soulful, and as sweet as buttercream, The Wedding Thief is the perfect summer read.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

A S Louder T W

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.