Some books just don’t need to be published.
Joan Didion’s newest, South and West, is one of those books. I like Joan Didion, but this small book reads like an afterthought, an unnecessary side note to her other wonderful works.
Comprised of fragments from previously unpublished notebooks, “South” is a laundry list of observations, anecdotes, and conversations formed on a road trip Didion took through the South (Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama) in 1970. Didion’s notes do evoke the South, the heaviness of the air, deep porches, water moccasins, and the echoes of slavery are everywhere, but the section feels incohesive and incomplete.
The book weighs heavily on the South; “West” is just a few pages tacked on before the end of the book. These notes are even more fractured, jumping from memory to observation without much reason or deeper meaning.