The Secret of a Feeling, On Loving Permissively with Susan Sontag

Book Reviews

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9/23/64 New York

Inspiratory emphasis

Inhale > lower (flatten diaphragm) > suppress sensation — pelvic, i.e. sexual

Therefore secret of a feeling is learning to breathe out

Right after reading Susan Sontag’s As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh, I was met with an army of questions: am I looking at my thoughts, words and actions in a way that merits a deeper consciousness? How do I make use of what I see, hear and feel to contribute to a sensibility that not only benefits myself?

Most of the questions were existential, possibly aftereffects of having been immersed in Sontag’s mind 500+ pages deep for over a week. After reading the first compilation of her journals and notebooks in Reborn, I knew I had to read the rest.

I’ve always been fascinated with the lives of writers and artists, at times more than their actual work, and this book is no exception — an intimate portrayal of Sontag.

Reading her journals at first was like a stumbling upon every film aficionado + literary lover’s dream: scattered throughout are lists of films and titles of books, in full abundance.

sontag

Movies seen since Aug. 11 (1964)

The Crowd (King Vidor) – Cinemathéque
Bande à Part (Jean-Luc Godard) – Gaumont Rive Gauche
Une Femme est une Femme (Godard) – Cina
La Grande Muraille (Japanese?) – Normandie
Maciste Contre Le Cyclope (Italian?) – Coné Gobelins
[The French director Georges] Franju’s first feature, The Keepers [La Tête contre les murs] about insane asylum – horrible, stupid, vicious director
Parallel to Les Yeux sans visage [Franju’s next film]

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8/23/66

I’ve read this summer: [Arnold Bennett,] The Old Wives’ Tale; {Thomas Hardy} The Mayor of Casterbridge; Gerhardi, Resurrection; Blaise Cendrars, Moravagine; Sheridan la Fanu, Carmilla; [Guy] de Maupassant, The Horla; [Jane Austen] Pride and Prejudice; H.-H. Ewers, L’apprenti Sorcier; Olaf Stapledon, Last and First Men; Gérard Genette, Figures; [Giorgio] de Chirico, Hebdomeros; [Diderot], Rameau’s Nephew, La Religieuse

Along with books she’s read or wants to read, Sontag also had an intricate way of linking literature and art with political theories. In an entry dated back in 1964:

Marxism a position vis-a-vis culture

–[Theodor] Adorno, Philosophy of New Music
[Arnold] Schoenberg = progress
[Igor] Stravinsky = fascism (whom A. identifies with just one period, the neo-classical)

[In the margin:] NB parallels [between] Stravinsky + [Pablo] Picasso — raiding the past [in their] different styles — no commitment to progress

–[Georg] Lukács
[Thomas] Mann= realism = sense of history = Marxism
[Franz] Kafka = allegory = dehistoricization = fascism

Her lists are tireless, repositories of information for every voracious reader. Naturally, her journals also depict her political growth as an American woman in a time when much of governments around the world were dealing with communism and burgeoning U.S. imperialism.