Book Review Musings

South and West by Joan Didion

3 lines on joan didion and 1000 words on my terrible mental health lol

cw: self-harm; negative body image; mental illness

I’m writing this on the 8th September, who knows when I’ll bother to hit publish.

I read South and West by Joan Didion last week, on my birthday.

As my birthday often is, it was a sombre affair. In the days leading up to it, I had slipped back into the habit of self-harming, acts that peaked – though didn’t stop – with me scratching “FAT” into the blubber of my upper arm with a craft knife.

Yeah, I’m not OK.


I wrote the first poem I’ve written in weeks last night, half asleep and privately sober, my lover having skipped town for a few weeks to work the wine harvest in the – yes, they are real, I’ve seen them – vineyards close by Niagara Falls. That poem read:

I’m not OK
But it’s OK
Because my OK
is not OK.

It’s not a very good poem, but it sums up how I feel at the moment and how able I am to express that shittiness. Bleurgh.

I’m a bit worried about myself tbh (I’ll be fine, whatever, fuck off, I’ll be fine, as long as I am constantly distracted by something, be it work (I have multiple jobs, so that helps), literature (“I adore to read”), podcasts (including the new Alan Partridge podcast which is a fucking balm for me, tbph), exercise (I cycle around and I have resumed doing cardio in the gym, now accompanied by The Affair, which is great) and I’ve got to got to got to keep doing that exercise because the because the because the sedentary summer has returned my disgusting body to the more-disgusting form it had a couple of years ago when it was fucking repulsive and I began exercising for the first time because I just looked at myself and felt sick, visceral, contempt and it’s like that again and I hate it I hate it which is why I cut FAT into my arm with a craft knife lol. Don’t worry, it scabbed over and healed. That’s me.

Never too deep.

Never deep enough.

I haven’t self-harmed in a week, though, so that’s OK. Actually, that’s not true. I got drunk with some colleagues after work (not during work, those days are gone those days are years gone christ i’m old) and cycled home and crashed into a street sign and I do have a dull achy pain where I landed, i.e. my right collarbone, my right hip and the part of my face that I permanently damaged a few years ago when I used to punch myself in the face when I didn’t have time to have a panic attack and knew I was about to have a panic attack.

Anyway, that was days ago and that was only self-endangerment, rather than self-harm. Hahaha. I’m a danger to myself. I always cycle with a helmet on.

I don’t have a deathwish.

Do I have a deathwish?

I just feel like I’m too old.

Too old to do anything, too old to, I dunno, I dunno, I dunno.

Too old to be.

I can induce tears by thinking about the fact that I will outlive my dog. This would be useful if I was an actor, but I’m not an actor, I’m nothing.

I’m fucking anxious about the pleasure of regret, too.

Though all the people I know to have read it have spoken highly of it, I’m worried about strangers being mean (I was the victim of a social media “pile-on” (I say “pile-on”, it was like four people) a few days ago when I tweeted an albeit blunt, but honest, comment expressing disapproval of an obese, bald, communist man whinging that his (I imagine also unhealthy) precious non-toddler-aged daughter was “in distress” (boohoo) because she accidentally saw a video showing the mechanics of an abattoir; anyway, the pro-meat left screamed and raged at me for hours and hours (about forty minutes, but I did keep replying) accusing me of fucking my dog right off the bat (which tbf I can see where they’re coming from, I am very very very close to my dog and though genital contact has not yet happened, it is almost a certainty that he has ingested my semen (for details on this see Bad Boy Poet) so really this doesn’t offend me though it does confuse me that it’s such a rapid and ubiquitous “insult” whenever I piss off someone online, but the thing that has really grated with me for the 30 hours since this happened is that they all kept telling me that the opinions I expressed were “performative” and “pretend” and “just trying to get clout”. I do not tweet to get attention, and nor do I believe my pretty extreme opinions about the meat industry are likely to win me any praise at all. I feel deeply and passionately about this, but as I do not want to sacrifice my life to death or imprisonment, then I don’t care about it enough to lead or assist with any kind of violent assault on abattoirs. I live through words: the books I read and the “texts” I write, which includes tweets. If the opinion was a joke, I would have tweeted it via the TRUTHER PRESS twitter account, which is for trolling. I didn’t, because – though extreme – it is my real opinion and I feel no shame in sharing it. I don’t understand why these “far-left” (though not far left enough to think that ignorance of “pleasure” derived from cruelty is acceptable) anonymous public sector workers or whatever believe that my opinions – given with my name and my face – are realer than their opinions which they feel so insecure about they won’t put with their name – if you’re scared your “life” is untenable if other people (e.g. employers, peers, family etc) know your opinions then reassess your fucking life. Sorry, the denial of my opinions felt deeply hurtful. Though the whole escapade did give me something to focus on instead of the much more serious hurt of my lover temporarily going away, lol haha haha

Anyway, I read this slim volume of collected notes written by Joan Didion that were to be the basis of longer-form pieces that were never completed. They were excellent, of course. Fucking brilliant. A wonderful distraction. I enjoyed them.

I’m not doing so good lolololol but I’ll walk Cubby, cook some pasta and then play Paper Mario and listen to Alan Partridge until it’s time to go to bed. Only three hours. It’ll be fine. is 10 years old! Celebrate by sharing this post – or others – with friends (if you have any), family (if you have any), lovers (which I presume you have because this website isn’t for children), or by donating to the site via the below link so that I can maybe take a day off work some time and enjoy being alive for a few hours.

1 comment on “South and West by Joan Didion

  1. Pingback: 50 Words on Each of the Essays in Joan Didion’s Let Me Tell You What I Mean – Triumph Of The Now

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