[Diski's] autobiographical essays are superb: A Feeling for Ice, about whiteness, psychiatric hospital and an estranged mother; Fashion As Art, about her relationship with clothes; and Staying Awake, in which she describes sleep beautifully. And I love her perkily comfortless piece about old age, However I Smell, in which she lets it be known that her hairdresser keeps saying to her: 'Ah bless.' She writes: 'There are other signs that I am no longer young, but the ah-bless is the most open and public.' Blessing Diski was an impertinence – little did these innocents know upon whom their blessings were landing. Her writing will forever remain young, funny and rebellious. And her essays – dare I say it – earn a blessing even when what they consider is cursed.
Jenny Diski, too, writes a lot about death, and a reader is grateful for her humor. Whereas Galgut’s clarity of vision can seem sometimes almost unworldly, Diski is nothing if not parti pris. Everything in her delicious essays is filtered, unabashedly, through her particularly sharp, uncompromising consciousness ... Diski takes an almost triumphantly dissatisfied, even irascible, approach ... As the anthology shows, though, Diski could make almost anything seem interesting.
Amid the book reviews in the LRB by critics determined to sound sober and certain, as if they were museum docents, her reviews and essays admitted doubt. They were marvelously shrewd but approachable and witty. Diski’s articles made the sound of someone chewing her fingernails very intelligently. She made stuffy waiting rooms a little brighter ... Why Didn’t You Just Do What You Were Told? includes essays, couched as book reviews, on such creeps, malcontents and strivers as Jeffrey Dahmer, Howard Hughes, Dennis Hopper, Keith Richards, Piers Morgan and Richard Branson ... Diski has some interesting if limited sympathy for Dahmer who, in his own mind, was creating rather than destroying ... This book lacks, alas, an index. And some of Diski’s best stuff, written for other publications, is not here. For example, she used to write supermarket criticism for The Sunday Times of London, in a column called 'Off Your Trolley' ... Some of the essays in Diski’s book are better than the others. The earlier ones, in fact, are a bit finer than the later — more intimate and free-floating. It’s as if she was beginning, after two decades of writing for the LRB, to sense the well running dry ... 'So much thought about everything appears in the form of literary criticism,' Iris Murdoch wrote in a 1974 letter. In an ideal world, this would be so more often. Diski was a model.