[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.
The volume is introduced by the LRB’s editor, Mary-Kay Wilmers, who gave her the freedom to roam and suggested many of the subjects, and ends with an afterword by Diski’s daughter Chloe, who observes (as Wilmers does) that all her writing was essentially personal ... This is not to say that they are lazy, self-indulgent or attention-seeking. They are hard worked and scrupulous and illuminating ... In her autobiographical writings Diski displays a gift for ruthless self-examination as well as a need to confront the unacceptable and explore the unknowable ... The book reviews also tell us a good deal about Diski, and one of the things they tell us is that she was attracted to the 'dangerous edge of things' ... the real substance of the volume lies in the well-researched essays on complex but minor figures such as Nietzsche’s sister Elisabeth, George Orwell’s second wife Sonia, and Sigmund Freud’s wife Martha ... What it is to be Jewish is one of the undercurrents in much of Diski’s writing, and inspired two of her more eccentric LRB essays, both very entertaining, studded with bits of interesting and eclectic information ... This wide-ranging collection is a tribute to her, and to her friend and editor Mary-Kay Wilmers, who brought out the best in her. Many writers envied the space that Wilmers gave her, but few could have made such good use of it.