03 January 2010

reborn - susan sontag's early diaries (1947-1963)

susan sontag's early diaries are really more of a reading list than anything else. after trying to make sense of what susan was talking about over the first 84 pages, i finally decided her diaries were an educational (as opposed to 'fun') read - and started looking up some of the authors, books, philosophers, operas, pieces of art or music i hadn't heard of previously on wikipedia. so much so, that on page 205 i donated 10 euros to the wikimedia foundation.

it is absolutely amazing to learn what susan read in her teens and twenties, and her treasury of words to describe all of it is unrivaled. unfortunately, i am far less well-read, so often i couldn't comment on or relate to her findings. incoherent, lone sentences like "Nominalist attitude to object in pre-cubist painting." are frequent and unless you are prepared to look into some secondary literature, i suppose reading susan's early diaries is not very enjoyable at all. however, if you are prepared to do so, your vocabulary and general knowledge will certainly extend.

in the more private passages, i especially enjoyed reading about susan's take on love ("Love as immolation of the self."), marriage ("... each couple in its own little house ... it's the most repulsive thing in the world.") and parenting ("Make him [her son] aware that there's a grown-up world that's none of his business."). the depth of her feelings as well as her voluptuous language and imagery are reminiscent of sylvia plath's (i read plath's diaries a couple of years back) and i appreciated susan's clarity and analytical ability ("My mother improved her manners by losing her appetite."). towards the end of the book, susan also discusses her attitudes and aspirations as a writer. i enjoyed these passages and think that they make a good finish/ outlook on her professional future. all in all, i have hardly ever read a piece of writing as brutally honest.

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