South and West: From a Notebook

South and West: From a Notebook is a 2017 non-fiction book authored by Joan Didion, with a preface by Nathaniel Rich. It is based on notes Didion took while traveling in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana in the 1970s as well as her sense of home in California.

South and West: From a Notebook
South and West From a Notebook.jpg
AuthorsJoan Didion
SubjectSouthern United States
PublisherAlfred A. Knopf
Publication date
March 2017


Didion recounts her road trip through the Southeastern United States, followed by her childhood memories of California triggered by the abduction of Patty Hearst.

Critical receptionEdit

In a review for The Guardian, Peter Conrad noted that Didion describes the South to "a metaphorical landscape, America’s heart of darkness"; "colonial, obsessed with disparities of “race, class, heritage”"; and its wilderness as "rank, malevolent, encroaching everywhere."[1] As for California, Conrad highlights, "the ground is abandoned altogether by blissed-out, irreligiously mystical individuals."[1]

In The Atlantic, Megan Garber wrote that the book was "an act of radical humility—an offering of literary detente from a writer who so perfected the art of secret bullying."[2]

Reviewing it for The New York Times, author Laila Lalami notes, "There is no plot in “South and West,” or conflict, or ending. The pleasures of this short book, rather, are found in observing the South through Didion's eyes."[3]


  1. ^ a b Conrad, Peter (September 25, 2017). "South and West: From a Notebook by Joan Didion review – back to the future of the US". The Guardian. Retrieved October 20, 2017.
  2. ^ Garber, Megan (March 7, 2017). "We Sell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live". The Atlantic. Retrieved October 22, 2017.
  3. ^ Lalami, Laila (April 14, 2017). "The South (and the West) through Joan Didion's Eyes". The New York Times. Retrieved October 22, 2017.