Two excerpts from never-before-seen notebooks offer insights into the author's literary mind and process and includes notes on her Sacramento upbringing, her life in the Gulf states, her views on prominent locals and her experiences during a formative "Rolling Stone" assignment. Joan Didion has always kept notebooks of overheard dialogue, observations, interviews, drafts of essays, and copies of articles. "Notes on the South" traces a road trip she took with her husband John Gregory Dunne, in June 1970, through Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Her acute observations about the small towns they pass through, her interviews with prominent local figures, and their preoccupation with race, class, and heritage seem to suggest a South largely unchanged today. "California notes" began as an assignment from Rolling Stone on the Patty Hearst trial of 1976. Though Didion never wrote the piece, watching the trial and being in San Francisco triggered thoughts about the West, the Hearsts, and her own upbringing in Sacramento.