In a way I’m sort of happy that my hair’s starting to go a little grey. At the moment it’s only happening at the front, so if all goes well maybe I’ll get to have a suave streak just like Susan Sontag had. And on that note, things are about to get fan-girly here.
Susan Sontag (1933 – 2004) was a renowned intellectual whose work as a writer, essayist and director offer seminal commentaries on society, culture, metaphors and the human experience.
But what I want to talk about here is her journal entries, which were published posthumously and give such a touching impression of her vulnerabilities and of a life truly lived.
In the preface of the first collection of entries; Sontag’s only child, David Rieff writes about the surreal experience of reading these deeply personal journals his mother had kept from her adolescence up until her death, and wishing he could warn her about all the pain and heartbreak which awaited her,
‘but of course I’m too late: the play has already been performed and its protagonist is gone’
Rieff continuously wondered whether his mother would have approved of his decision to make her journal entries public. For me personally though, I’m so grateful he did, these snippets are why I love books – a person who I will never know has been able to give me solace at so many different points in life, years after her death.
It’s touching to get a deeper glimpse of the fragile human behind her work, as well as an impression of her personality during different points in her life.
Plus, her lifelong thirst for further knowledge would inspire anyone to strive towards greater understanding and intelligence. Here are a few entries that particularly struck a chord with me:
‘…I just felt enormous anger at her, exactly as you would feel toward someone who has just announced that she is about to cause you terrible pain’
‘ “X” is when you feel yourself an object not a subject. When you want to please and impress people, either by saying what they want to hear, or by shocking them, or by boasting and name dropping, or by being very cool.’
‘Two fundamental needs are at war within me: need for the approval of others, fear of others’