Susan Sontag is King Kong

The New York Times Magazine published today a series of selections from Susan Sontag’s journals that she kept during the 1950s and 60s. FSG is going to publish the first volume of her journals in 2008. Here are a few gems from the NYTM excerpt:

In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself.

The journal is a vehicle for my sense of selfhood. It represents me as emotionally and spiritually independent. Therefore (alas) it does not simply record my actual daily life but rather–in many cases offers an alternative to it.
….
It’s corrupting to write with the intent to moralize, to elevate people’s moral standards.

Nothing prevents me from being a writer except laziness. A good writer.

Why is writing important? Mainly out of egotism, I suppose. Because I want to be that persona, a writer, and not because there is something I must say.
….
The only kind of writer I could be is the kind who exposes himself. . . .To write is to spend oneself, to gamble oneself. But up to now I have not even liked the sound of my own name. To write, I must love my name. The writer is in love with himself. . .and makes his books out of that meeting and that violence.
….
There is no stasis. To stand still is to fall away from the truth; the inner life dims and flickers, starts to go out, as soon as one tries to hold fast. It’s like trying to make this breath serve for the next one, or making today’s dinner do the work of next Wednesday’s as well.. . .Truth rides the arrow of time.
….
I write to define myself — an act of self-creation — part of process of becoming — in a dialogue with myself, with writers I admire living and dead, with ideal readers
….
I want to be able to be alone, to find it nourishing — not just a waiting.
….
Art = a way of getting in touch with one’s own insanity.
….
one doesn’t learn from experience–because the substance of things is always changing
….
I’m not “saying something.” I’m allowing “something” to have a voice, an independent existence (an existence independent of me).
….
Self-expression is a limiting idea, limiting if it’s central. (Art as self-expression is very limiting.) From self-expression one can never arrive at an authentic, a genuine, not merely expediential, justification for courtesy.
….
One of my strongest and most fully employed emotions: contempt. Contempt for others, contempt for myself.
….
My mind = King Kong. Aggressive, tears people to pieces. I keep it locked up most of the time–and bite my nails.
….
The only people who should interest themselves in an art (or several arts) are those who practice it — or have — or aspire to. The whole idea of an “audience” is wrong. The artist’s audience is his peers.

One Comment

  1. evicious

    I haven’t read the piece in NYTM, so I tried not to read your blog because I wanted to decide for myself what I liked best. But I couldn’t help myself.

    I bet your favorites are these:

    “I want to be able to be alone, to find it nourishing — not just a waiting.”
    ….
    “The only people who should interest themselves in an art (or several arts) are those who practice it — or have — or aspire to. The whole idea of an “audience” is wrong. The artist’s audience is his peers.”

    Now I need at least another three weeks before I can read the NYTM article on my own, and even then, I am not sure I can distinguish among quotes I like; quotes I think I like but it’s really only because they stood out in my mind after reading them in your blog; and quotes I like partly because you liked them.

Leave a Reply

*