book hack

Why Didn’t You Just Do What You Were Told?

Jenny Diski

5 mins

3 key insights

Visual, audio & text

This extraordinary collection of autobiographical essays and literary criticism from the witty and incisive writer Jenny Diski finds within its pages stories of sexual abuse, serial killers, 1970s counter culture, Jewishness, and Antarctica.


Why Didn’t You Just Do What You Were Told?

Why Didn’t You Just Do What You Were Told?

by Jenny Diski


Renowned for her biting wit and moving, forthright observations in her columns for the London Review of Books, Jenny Diski is an unparalleled chronicler of the inner life and the vulnerability of the human condition.

A columnist, personal essayist, and author of multiple works of fiction and non-fiction, Diski is acclaimed for her award-winning travelogue-memoir Stranger on a Train. Why Didn't You Just Do What You Were Told? is a volume of essays curated by Diski's friend and editor Mary-Kay Wilmers, following Diski's death from cancer.

Spanning politics, intimate character studies, motherhood, sex, solitude, and her own cancer diagnosis, this dazzling collection bridges the inner recesses of thought with sweeping universal experiences. Taken together, each essay weaves into its wider argument profound and intimate offerings, proving that the personal is, indeed, political.

Favorite quote

I start with me, and often enough end with me. I've never been apologetic about that nor had a sense that my writing is 'confessional'. I may not make things up in fiction, or tell the truth in non-fiction. I lie, like all writers, but I use my truths as I know them in order to do so.

- Jenny Diski

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