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South and West: From a Notebook
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South and West: From a Notebook


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.

Title:South and West: From a Notebook
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:160 pages
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    South and West: From a Notebook Reviews

  • Trish
    Mar 12, 2017

    Joan Didion’s notebook of her drive across Louisiana and Mississippi with her husband in the summer of 1970 is filled with glimpses and impressions of the blazing heat, canopies of kudzu, a sense of...

  • Vincent Scarpa
    Dec 21, 2016

    I love Joan Didion.On any given day, Play it as it Lays fights for a spot in my top three favorite novels of all time alongside Renata Adler's Pitch Dark, Mary Robison's Why Did I Ever, and Joy Willia...

  • Ammar
    Mar 08, 2017

    Joan offers the reader an intimate look at her writing process. Anyone who read Didion would be aware of her personal life, her upbringing, her essays and how she wrote about the loss of a husband and...

  • Dianne
    May 13, 2017

    Think of this as a literary sketchbook, full of jotted down conversation scraps, impressions, memories and thoughts. Most of the book is Didion's reflections on the South circa 1970. The smaller porti...

  • Bryant
    Mar 11, 2017

    Nothing makes me want to write more than reading Joan Didion....

  • Cheryl
    May 01, 2017

    "We sat out in back by the bayou and drank gin and tonics and when a light rain began to fall, a kind of mist, Walker never paid any mind but just kept talking, and walking up to the house to get fres...

  • Ivonne Rovira
    Apr 01, 2017

    How could I forget how perfectly Joan Didion could craft a sentence, capturing every nuance, every irony, even what was unsaid? Although the pieces in South and West never became published essays, the...

  • Lauren
    May 14, 2017

    Setting: 1970 Deep South roadtrip - Louisiana, Mississippi, AlabamaDidion takes one month to travel the rural south to better understand "the west". She sees these two cardinal directions as linked in...

  • Rachel Len
    Jun 07, 2017

    I picked this one up because I'm doing Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge and needed a travel memoir. This one was short and it was written by Joan Didion, so it was an easy pick. I love the way Didion...

  • Kasa Cotugno
    May 29, 2017

    Thanks to Joan Didion for deciding to have this published. A 40-year old notebook of observations about the American South written as she and her husband traveled there in the 1970's. ...