The 82-year-old Joan Didion keeps making a splash with her new book "South and West," a major part of which consists of notes she made in 1970 on a trip to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Didion apparently recently discovered those notes in a shoebox.
Lead New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani made the Arts section front Tuesday morning with her review of the book, the first time a book review has appeared in such a prominent position in weeks. On several days recently, the Times has even dispensed with a book review all together, a dismaying development to longtime readers.
Kakutani was less than enthusiastic about Didion's work, finding her notes at times banal and cliched. Yet, the always evenhanded Kakutani ended up praising Didion for her foresightedness in anticipating that the South would be the vanguard of a new era of conservative politics.
The Baton Rouge Advocate Tuesday stirred itself to publish an editorial about Didion's observations of New Orleans, citing a Didion quote describing New Orleans' sultry summers.
The newspaper, which now competes strongly in New Orleans with the Times-Picayune, said that Didion's views about New Orleans from decades ago remain valid today, pointing out that the city changes little over the years.
While that ignores the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the city's recovery and rising gentrification, New Orleans does remain an eternal city that moves to to its own rhythms. As the Advocate said, Didion would find much unchanged today.