This, the second of three volumes of Susan Sontag's journals and notebooks, begins where the first volume left off, in the middle of the 1960s. It traces and documents Sontag's evolution from fledgling participant in the artistic and intellectual world of New York City to world-renowned critic and dominant force in the world of ideas with the publication of the groundbreaking Against Interpretation in 1966.
As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh follows Sontag through the turbulent years of the 1960s--from her trip to Hanoi at the peak of the Vietnam War to her time making films in Sweden--up to 1981 and the beginning of the Reagan era. This is an invaluable record of the inner workings of one of the most inquisitive and analytical thinkers of the twentieth century at the height of her power. It is also a remarkable document of one individual's political and moral awakening.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
April 10, 2012
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh by Susan Sontag
As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh
The right hand = the hand that is aggressive, the hand that masturbates. Therefore, to prefer the left hand! ... To romanticize it, to sentimentalize it!
I am Irene's [the Cuban-American playwright Mar�a Irene Forn�s--SS's lover for a time in Paris in 1957 and then her partner in New York between 1959 and 1963] Maginot Line.
Her very "life" depends on rejecting me, on holding the line against me.
Everything has been deposited on me. I am the scapegoat.
[This entry is emphasized by a vertical line in the margin:] As long as she is occupied in warding me off, she doesn't have to face herself, her own problems.
I can't convince her--persuade her--with reason--that it is otherwise.
Any more than she could convince me--when we lived together--not to need her, clutch at her, depend on her.
There is nothing in it for me now--no joy, only sorrow. Why do I hang on?
Because I don't understand. I don't really accept the change in Irene. I think I can reverse it--by explaining, by demonstrating that I am good for her.
But it is as indispensable for her to reject me--as it has been indispensable for me to hold on to her.
"Whatever doesn't kill me, makes me stronger." [a paraphrase of Goethe]
There is no love, no charity, no kindness for me in Irene. For me, to me, she becomes cruel and shallow.
The symbiotic tie is broken. She cast it aside.
Now she only presents "bills." Inez, Joan, Carlos!
I have damaged her ego, she says. I and Alfred [the American writer Alfred Chester].
(The inflated, fragile ego.)
And no repentance, no apology for, no change from what was truly damaging in my behavior will appease her, or heal her.
Remember how she received the "revelation" at the New Yorker [a Manhattan movie theater that showed foreign and revival films, where SS went several times a week in the 1960s] two weeks ago!
"I am a stone wall," she says. "A rock." It's true.
There is no responsiveness, no forgiveness in her. To me, only hardness. Deafness. Silence. Even a grunt of assent "violates" her.
Rejecting me is the shell Irene constructs around herself. The protective "wall."
--Why I didn't nurse David:
Mother didn't nurse me. (I vindicate her by doing it to David--it's ok, I do it to my own child)
I had a difficult birth, caused M[other] a lot of pain; she didn't nurse me; she stayed in bed for a month after.
David was big (like me)--a lot of pain. I wanted to be knocked out, not to know anything; it never occurred to me to nurse him; I stayed in bed for a month after.
Loving = the sensation of being in an intense form Like pure oxygen (as distinct from air)
All based on a particular stylization of consciousness
Self & world (money)--no body consciousness, among many ways of being-in-the-world which he omits.
Edith Wharton's biography. Banal sensibility capped, periodically, by strong intelligent conclusion. But her intelligence doesn't transform the events--i.e. disclose their complexity. It only supervenes upon the banal telling of them.
Ontological anxiety, "Weltangst." The world blank--or crumbling, shredding. People are wind-up dolls. I'm afraid.
"The gift" has meant to me: I wouldn't buy this for myself (it's nice, a luxury, not necessary) but I buy it for you. Denial of self.
There are people in the world.
A constriction in the chest, tears, a scream that feels as if it would be endless if I let it out.
I should go away for a year.
To say a feeling, an impression is to diminish it--expel it.
But sometimes feelings are too strong: passions, obsessions. Like romantic love. Or grief. Then one needs to speak, or one would burst.
The desire for reassurance. And, equally, to be reassured. (The itch to ask whether I'm still loved; and the itch to say, I love you, half-fearing that the other has forgotten, since the last time I said it.)
"Quelle connerie" ["What idiocy"]
I valued professional competence + force, think (since age four?) that that was, at least, more attainable than being lovable "just as a person."
I can't drive out my obsession with I[rene]--my grief, my despair, my longing--with another love. I'm not capable of loving anyone now. I'm being "loyal."
But the obsession must be drained, somehow. I must force some of that energy elsewhere.
If I could get started on another novel ...
From Mother, I learned: "I love you" means "I don't love anyone else." The horrid woman was always challenging my feelings, telling me I had made her unhappy, that I was "cold."
As if children owe their parents love + gratification! They don't. Though parents owe these things to their children--exactly like physical care.
From Mother: "I love you. Look. I'm unhappy."
She made me feel: Happiness is disloyalty.
She hid her happiness, challenged me to make her happy--if I could.
Therapy is deconditioning [SS's therapist at the time, Diana] (Kemeny)
Mary McCarthy's grin--grey hair--low-fashion red + blueprint suit. Club woman gossip. She is [her novel] The Group. She's nice to her husband.
Fear of the other going away: fear of abandonment
Fear of my going away: fear of retaliation by the other (also abandonment--but as revenge for the rejection of going away).
I have a wider range as a human being than as a writer. (With some writers, it's the opposite.) Only a fraction of me is available to be turned into art.
A miracle is just an accident, with fancy trappings.
Change--life--comes through accidents.
My loyalty to the past--my most dangerous trait, the one that has cost me most.
Self-respect. It would make me lovable. And it's the secret of good sex.
The best things in SW [the philosopher Simone Weil] are about attention. Against both the will + the categorical imperative.