28 January 2010

Notes from Reborn

Susan Sontag writes:

19 June 1949
Yet the past is no more past because it was delimited within a particular geographic area from which one is now irrevocably departed, than if it were all lived in the same place ...

But still, this miserable emptiness - as if I had never been away, as if these past five months had never existed, as if I had never known Irene and been in love with her, as if I had never discovered sex because of H, as if I had never discovered myself (did I?) - as if it had never been ...

September 1950
Once we are dead, we don't know about it, so think of being alive! Even if we die before experiencing things we demand from life, it won't matter when we die - we lose only the moment we are "in" - life is horizontal, not vertical - it cannot be accumulated so live, don't grovel.

12 November 1950
to be fully conscious at every moment which means feeling the past to be as real as the present

4 January 1958
Sense of reality = sense that things must be as they are. (Spinoza, Stoics) In me, very therapeutic but premature. I've had the cure before ever having had the disease.

"Ah," replies Baptiste, "if all the people who lived together loved each other, the earth would shine like the sun!"

6 January 1958
But surely most people wear a mask to efface what is beneath and become only what the mask represents them to be.

More interesting than the mask as concealment or disguise is the mask as projection, as aspiration. Through the mask of my behavior, I do not project my raw genuine self - I overcome it.

18 December 1960
Hedda wants to be given continual reasons (rewards) to live. She cannot supply the reasons herself. For all who cannot supply her with reasons she feels contempt. Contempt is her habitual attitude toward others, but her self-contempt is more severe.

1 May 1961
The life of the city: a life in rooms, where one sits, or lies down. Personal distance is ruled by the disposition of furniture. In a living room, there is only one thing to do with another person (besides make love - i.e., go to the bedroom): sit and talk. The life of the living room forces talk upon us, and inhibits the capacity for play and for contemplation.

23 August 1961
When you stop reading and put down the book, you mark the page so you can continue at exactly the same point when you pick the book up again another time. Similarly, when you are making love and stop for a moment (to pee, to take off your clothes) you must notice exactly where you were so that you can resume at that exact point a moment later. And then you must watch very carefully to see if it works, because sometimes - after even the slightest break - it is necessary to begin all over again at the beginning.

August 1961
N.B. Mme de Malvert's idea that naming Armance's TB will hasten its advance (Ch. 1) - like "words ignite feelings" - as in Stendhal's La Chartreuse de Parme (Sanseverino in carriage)

1961
Think of Blake. He didn't smile for others.

15 September 1961
Only acts which are repeated, then, are free of the bitter taste of death.

1961
English lack warmth not in the sense of good will but in the sense of the flesh.

1961
Shifting in mid-sentence from the dressy "one" to the more comfortable "he"

19 September 1961
We celebrate our changes of character by altering our personal appearance.

9 December 1961
The fear of becoming old is born of the recognition that one is not living now the life that one wishes. It is equivalent to a sense of abusing the present.

3 March 1962
From this, a will to failure that often - except in sex - my talents frustrate. So then I devalue my successes (fellowships, the novel, jobs). These become unreal to me. I feel I am masquerading, pretending.

5 March 1962
Short cut: don't call sex sex. Call it an investigation (not an experience, not a demonstration of love) into the body of the other person. Each time one learns one new thing.

3 September 1962
Hippolyte says, Blessed is the mind with something to occupy it other than its own dissatisfactions.

20 September 1962
Memory is the test. What one wants to remember - while still in the act or experience - is corrupt.

April 1963
Prevail through sensibility.

Motto of Soichiro Honda, head of world-famous Honda Motorcycle Company: "Speed is man's right."

Work = being in the world

Loving, being loved = appreciating the world (but not being in it)

1963
The look - more intimate (committing) than the sexual embrace, because there is no room for detachment in it; the gesture is too compact

8 August 1963
...Do something
Do something
Do something


I just finished Susan Sontag's 'Reborn: Early diaries 1947-1964', edited by David Rieff. These are some of the many phrases that struck a chord. I highly recommend this beautiful insight into some of Sontag's earliest ideas. The book allows the reader to see her growing, learning, experiencing and constantly scrutinising the world and - even more closely - herself. Pics Eleanor Weber.

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