On Susan Sontag’s Journals

Just finished Susan Sontag’s early journals from 1947-1963 Reborn as compiled and edited by her son David Rieff. The first sentence we read is a proclamation she wrote when she was 14: “I believe that there is no personal god or life after death.” Then at 15 we read her thoughts on reading Andre Gide, listening to Vivaldi and learning to drive from her stepfather.

As she gets older, has her failed marriage, has her son, has her lovers, she gets very introspective as journals should be.

The orgasm focuses. I lust to write. The coming of the orgasm is not the salvation but, more, the birth of my ego. I cannot write until I find my ego. (11/19/59)

My desire to write is connected with my homosexuality. I need the identity as a weapon, to match the weapon that society has against me…

I am just becoming aware of how guilty I feel being queer. With H, I thought it didn’t bother me, but I was lying to myself. I let other people (e.g., Annette [Michaelson]) believe that is was H, who was my vice, and that apart from her I wouldn’t be queer or at least not mainly so.

I connect my feat and my sense of guilt with Philip, with his publicizing it to everyone all over the world, with the prospect of another custody suit next summer. But perhaps he only makes it worse. Thus, why do I continue the deception with Jacob [Taubes]?

Being queer makes me feel more vulnerable. It increases my wish to hide, to be invisible — which I’ve always felt anyway. (12/24/59)

Need to finish up with Fernando Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet. Need to re-read Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov.