As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980 [NOOK Book]

Overview



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...

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As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980

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Overview



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.


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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
“The notebook has become an art form,” writes Sontag toward the end of this second collection of her own notebooks and journals. Beginning as the Vietnam War is heating up and ending right before the Reagan era, this volume offers at times deliciously mad and maddening aphorisms (even notes for an essay on the aphorism), compulsively compiled lists (“Movies I saw as a child...”), and acute observations on her self, oddly without veering into autobiography. There are surprisingly few allusions to her cancer in the mid-1970s. “These journals show Sontag playing with and discovering the words to express many of the central themes of her most scintillating work, such as kitsch. She also treats themes as disparate as Marshall McLuhan, Samuel Beckett, her one-time lover María Irene Fornés, and as the ’60s close, revolution, and much more. Editor Rieff, Sontag’s son, eschews footnotes in favor of bracketed identification of people, as well as the meaning of many shorthand fragments. America’s Simone de Beauvoir, Roland Barthes, and Simone Weil rolled into one, Sontag fascinates with her teeming interests turning in on themselves. Agent: The Wylie Agency. (Apr.)
From the Publisher

Praise for Susan Sontag:

“What ultimately matters about Sontag . . . is what she has defended: the life of the mind, and the necessity for reading and writing as ‘a way of being fully human.’” —Hilary Mantel, Los Angeles Times Book Review

Praise for As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh:

“Sontag’s essays are arch, intransigent—so it is a rare pleasure to read, in her diary, discoveries being made in real time. She applies her mind to itself with enthusiasm . . . The overall portrait gained from these journals seems to be of an impossibly fractured author—but the diaries also remind us that Sontag the writer and Sontag the woman, inevitably, occupy the same territory, so that even when she is writing about culture, she is, in a sense, exploring herself . .  [a] difficult, fascinating volume . . . As her diaries reveal with such intensity, she harnessed only a fraction of her mind to produce the writing we have seen until now; the rest is consciousness.” —Emily Stokes, The Guardian

“In the three years since Reborn, the first volume of Susan Sontag’s journals and notebooks, was published, at least three more books about the literary titan have appeared . . . [but] nothing compares with going to the source directly. The second of three volumes, As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh, spans the years of Sontag's most prodigious output and her greatest intellectual influence, including the 1966 publication of her first volume of essays, the landmark Against Interpretation, and the equally influential Illness as Metaphor, a 1978 treatise inspired by her first bout with breast cancer.” —Melissa Anderson, Newsday

“A powerful self-portrait gradually emerges. Sontag avoided personal writing, as Rieff explains; perhaps, he suggests, the diaries constitute ‘the great autobiographical novel she never cared to write’ . . . the reader warms more to her through her sudden lists of appealing adjectives (‘besotted, cerulean, ogival’) or her likes (‘Drums, carnations, socks, raw peas’) and dislikes (‘television, baked beans, hirsute men’) . . . a tribute by a scrupulous son to his difficult, gifted mother . . . In its fragmentation and incoherence and passion, its combination of the erudite and the everyday, it is more true to life, both intellectual and emotional, than the most artful novel or careful biography. It may well be that Sontag’s diaries, like Virginia Woolf’s (which she knew and admired) will come to be seen as just as brilliant and important as anything she wrote.” —Anne Chisholm, The Telegraph

“That tormented Sontag is known to many, but she was not all Dark Lady. It’s impossible to read these journals and not experience the warmer sides of her ambition: her deep admiration for certain artists around her, her animating wish to encourage and promote . . . Rieff designates the second volume as his mother’s ‘political bildungsroman,’ the record, as she put it, of ‘falling out of love with Communism.’ Yet he chose to call this volume As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh, a title pointing to her inner life rather than her political one. It is through this startling image, noted in a margin in May, 1965, that we today see the thirty-two-year-old Sontag awaken to her finitude: her life had to reach an end, just as consciousness is harnessed to flesh. But, then again, perhaps it isn’t: language—which can capture and embody consciousness—lives on, and has its own fleshiness. As Sontag’s hero, Roland Barthes, once wrote, ‘Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My language trembles with desire.’ If anyone else’s language trembles that way, as this volume of her journals attests, it is Susan Sontag’s.” —Emily Greenhouse, The New Yorker

“The Sontag that appears here is, at times, very different from the strident academic who polarises public opinion. She is anxious, self-deprecating and frequently heartbroken . . . As in the earlier volume of diaries, Reborn, in which Sontag wrote reminders to herself to wash, this collection brings a more fragile, neurotic side into view. And yet there is still much of the academic who did not suffer fools—or ‘Modernist-nihilist-wise-guy-bullshit’—gladly. Her lengthy analyses of her relationships are broken up with quotations from Wittgenstein, or counterpoised by reported conversations with Jasper Johns and Joseph Brodsky . . . She writes dozens of obsessive lists . . . each a reminder of her voraciously catholic interests . . . Over the course of the diary, a picture of a complicated, brilliant person emerges. A little like her criticism, her diary entries combine her interests with bright, aphoristic turns of phrase . . . these diaries are a reminder of the value of the work that made her great, and also mysterious—“partly (and forever)” escaping from view.” —The Economist

Consciousness is ultimately a very serious book, as it would have to be, as the record of the inner life of a renowned and resolutely serious person . . . It is a story of settling and unsettling, of restlessness and of trying to find a place to rest, of examining the parameters of adulthood, of questioning what it means to be a friend, a lover, a writer, an artist, a mother, a person in the world. ‘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,’ Sontag writes. If this is the case, then Consciousness is a presentation of the residue of Sontag, the part that is not art. It’s life . . . At its best, [Consciousness] is Sontag turning her keen intellect onto the world and onto herself, practicing criticism in her architectural, adversarial, serious way . . . we should  . . . be grateful for the dissemination of these notebooks, with their long stretches of self-analysis and their pops of insight.” —Lisa Levy, Los Angeles Review of Books

“Sontag seems addicted to writing lists—of films she has seen, or would like to see, and of her extensive reading, including Thomas Mann, Walter Benjamin and Sigmund Freud. But there is plenty of deeper, psychological revelation. While, outwardly, she appeared formidably confident, her entries here show her to be riddled with doubt, anxiety and a fear of showing weakness . . . These often intense accounts of the inner life of a passionate, highly cultured intellectual woman are riveting.” —Rebecca Wallersteiner, The Jewish Chronicle

Library Journal
Issued in 2008, the first volume of Sontag's journals and notebooks covered her early years. This second of three volumes, also edited by Sontag's son, David Rieff, jumps right in mid-Sixties to her emergence as a significant critic. Juicy reading for all intellectual sorts.
The Barnes & Noble Review

The period during which the mostly fragmentary material collected in As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh was written was also the period during which Susan Sontag published the major nonfiction works on which her reputation largely rests: Against Interpretation (1966), Styles of Radical Will (1969), On Photography (1977), Illness as Metaphor (1978), and Under the Sign of Saturn (1980). By 1980, when this selection (the second of three projected volumes) concludes, Sontag?s position in American literary and intellectual life was unassailable.

Her journals and notebooks, though, do not read like the chronicle of a triumph. They are characterized more by unfulfilled ambition and relentless self-questioning than by a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction; Sontag seems far more aware of her faults and limitations than of her strengths and virtues. The predominant American critic of the second half of the century was also a merciless self-critic. "My mind isn?t good enough, isn?t really first rate," complains the writer who has already, by this point, published such brilliant essays as "Notes on ?Camp? " and "On Style." "And my character, my sensibility is ultimately too conventional.? I?m not mad enough, not obsessed enough."

In fact, the journals provide plenty of contrary evidence: Sontag was first rate, obsessed, and at times a little bit mad. And if she did not sufficiently appreciate what she had already done, she did have tremendously high aspirations and hopes for her future work. Indeed, despite the occasional moments in which she worries that she is losing her edge ("Have I done all the living I?m going to do? A spectator now, calming down. Going to bed with the New York Times") the reader of As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh senses throughout the determination with which Sontag continued to hold on to the belief that her best work was ahead of her. That belief is a double-edged sword for any writer or artist: it forbids both complacency and contentment, and if the former is the death of the creative spirit, some degree of the latter is surely necessary if one is to be happy in one?s life. In his introduction, David Rieff describes Sontag as being largely fulfilled but not happy. It seems safe to assume that this verdict is supported by his personal knowledge of her — Rieff is Sontag?s son — and not by what is found in these pages: the journals give little evidence, on the whole, of either deep happiness or sustained fulfillment.

Then again, it is always dangerous to assume that the contents of a writer?s diaries, journals, and notebooks accurately reflect or express what was happening in the author?s life or mind at the time of composition. Such sources may enable, or project, a certain intimacy: one gets to listen in on a writer?s conversation with herself. For that reason, too, such documents may be (but are not guaranteed to be) more honest than works intended for publication, works in which an author may be more conscious of cultivating a certain image. But it is not unheard of to want to massage one?s own self- image — indeed, it is only human; and besides, nearly any writer will be aware of the possibility that the writings might end up in the hands of others, regardless of one?s intentions:

Maybe that?s why I write — in a journal. That feels "right." I know I?m alone, that I?m the only reader of what I write here — but the knowledge isn?t painful, on the contrary I feel stronger for it, stronger each time I write something down. (Hence, my worry this past year — I felt myself terribly weakened by the fact that I couldn?t write in the journal, didn?t want to, was blocked, or whatever.) I can?t talk to myself, but I can write to myself. (But is that because I do think it possible that someday someone I love who loves me will read my journals ? + feel even closer to me?)
Moreover, Sontag did not regard her notebooks and journals as sites for confession, let alone communication with others. She saw them in utilitarian terms: they were a tool to help her make progress in the two simultaneous and connected projects that engaged her during these years, her writing and her development of herself as a person. From this perspective it seems only natural that she would focus less on attained satisfactions and completed achievements than on perceived inadequacies and areas for possible future improvement.

Even having granted this, though, it is striking how much conscious self- shaping one finds in this volume. If many around her perceived Sontag as having more or less arrived by this point in her life, Sontag herself clearly regarded "Susan Sontag" as a continuing work in progress, and it is impossible to ignore the considerable tension between Sontag?s desire to be more authentic, more genuinely herself, and the demanding, sometimes utopian self-directed commands she frequently issues. "I would be more myself [if] I would smile less," she advises herself at one point, suggesting as well that she should "eliminate the superlatives, the unnecessary adverbs + adjectives from my speech." In the midst of her ill-fated love affair with Carlotta del Pezzo, she gives herself the following stern lecture:
I must appear to be strong — which means that I really must be strong. I must not offer her my suffering, my longing for her, as a proof of my love. I must not even tell her so often that I love her. I must not try to persuade her, with words, that it will be good for her to be with me. (This awakens her fear of dependence.) I must not ask her to reassure me, to tell me she loves me. I must not ask her when she is coming to New York, only [say] that I hope she will come.
Such moments help to correct the all-too-common and all-too-clichéd image of Sontag as an aloof if not icy intellectual. That picture of her is supported by some of the entries, but she just as often comes across as vulnerable, uncertain, and entirely human. "Let me go on being naked," she writes after the collapse of another affair. "Let it hurt. But let me survive." Particularly wounding, it appears, was her relationship with her mother. Sometimes she is wry and amusing on the topic. Writing of how her mother shaped her tastes, she observes, "If she liked it, I can?t like it. That includes everything from men to perfume, attractive furniture, stylish clothes, make-up, fancy or ornate things, soft lines, curves, flowers, colors, going to the beauty parlor, and having vacations in the sun!" (In the margin, she adds: "Thank God my mother didn?t like children, food, movies, books, and learning!")

Other entries, though, paint a picture of a disturbing and damaging psychodrama:
I?m afraid of my mother — afraid of her harshness, her coldness.? My ultimate project: to keep her afloat, alive. My means: flattery, unlimited statements of how much I admire and adore her, and repeated rituals of denigration of my own worth. (I confess, to her reproaches, that I am cold + heartless + selfish. We weep together over how bad I am, then she smiles + hugs + kisses me + I go to bed. I?ve gotten what I wanted. I also feel unclean, unsatisfied, debauched.)
If, as it appears, Sontag internalized some of the coldness and hostility her mother directed toward her, we do sometimes find her resisting it. "Au fond," she writes, "I do like myself. I always have. (My strongest purchase on health?) It?s just that I don?t think other people will like me. And I "understand" their point of view. But — if I were other people — I?d like me a lot." Here, self-criticism gets transformed into self-congratulation, with a concomitant implied criticism of others: I?d be smart enough to like me if I met me — too bad for others if they are too stupid to do so. This sort of self-regard, which many who met Sontag commented on, is not infrequent in these pages:
Always the frustrating sense of the disparity between my energies, my ambitions, and those of other people. The others setting such low goals for themselves, so easily tired, so lacking in vitality.
Reflections on her relationships with her mother and her various romantic partners occupy a great deal of space in this volume. (As Rieff notes, considerably less attention is given to what may have been the central event of Sontag?s life during the latter part of this period, her first of three bouts with cancer.) But literary, intellectual, and political matters also make their way in. There are lists of books and movies she had experienced or felt that she needed to experience, of places she thought she should visit, of her likes and dislikes, of qualities that turned her on. And there are notes for projected book and film projects, some of which would be completed, others abandoned.

Particularly interesting are the entries documenting her trip to North Vietnam in 1968. (Her "official" account of this trip was published in 1968 as Trip to Hanoi; a version of it was included in Styles of Radical Will.) The entries included in As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh manifest a profound internal struggle: part of her wanted to be able to accept and endorse the pro-Communist sentiments of her tour guides, while another, more skeptical and individualistic part was deeply resistant and to some degree even repulsed by the apparent rigidity and sterility of life in North Vietnam. "I long for the three-dimensional adult world in which I live," she writes, "even as I go about my (their) business in this two- dimensional world of the fairy-tale to which I am paying a visit." She continues:
It?s monochromatic here. Everything is on the same level. All the words belong to the same vocabulary: struggle, bombing, friend, aggressor, imperialist, victory, comrade, the French colonialists, the puppet troops. I resist the flattening of our language, but soon I realize that I must use it (with moderation) if I?m to say anything that?s useful to them.? I long for someone to be indiscreet here. To talk about his "personal" or "private" feelings. To be carried away by feeling.
The section on the Vietnam trip is more cohesive than the rest, reading almost like an essay rather than as a series of disconnected fragments, and includes a number of interesting observations. ("When Viet children play 'capture the pilot,' the tallest must be the American.") Much of the rest of the book is, by comparison, a bit thin, both in descriptive detail and in context. Since Sontag was writing only for herself; she did not bother to set her notes and jottings within a framing narrative that would make clear, at each point, what was happening in her life. There are times, though, when one regrets the editor?s decision not to give the reader some assistance of this sort. (It would be nice to have an index, too.) In the end what speaks most loudly in these pages is not the narrative of Sontag?s biographical doings but rather the power of her will, the force of her unremitting desire to make herself into the sort of person she admired — even when this desire was in conflict with her own inner nature, when what she actually longed for was in opposition to what she thought the person she ought to be would desire. "What I want: energy, energy, energy," she writes in 1970. And then: "Stop wanting nobility, serenity, wisdom — you idiot!"

Troy Jollimore is Associate Professor of Philosophy at California State University, Chico. His most recent books are Love's Vision and At Lake Scugog: Poems, both from Princeton University Press.

Reviewer: Troy Jollimore

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781466802179
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 4/10/2012
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 544
  • Sales rank: 1,155,840
  • File size: 449 KB

Meet the Author



Susan Sontag 1933–2004 was the author of numerous works of non-fiction, including the groundbreaking collection of essays Against Interpretation FSG, 1966, and of four novels, including In America FSG, 2000, which won the National Book Award.   

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Read an Excerpt

As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh

1964

5/5/46

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 María Irene Fornés—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)

 

 

Henry James—

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.

 

 

...

8/5/64

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.

8/6/64

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).

8/8/64

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.

 

 

One can never ask anyone to change a feeling.

 

 

8/18/64 London

"Variety of Uniformities makes compleat Beauty."—Sir Christopher Wren

 

Buster Keaton: Candide with a frontal lobotomy

 

[Description of the American novelist James Jones:] Shoulders coming out of his ears

 

Ectoplasm is (displaced) seminal fluid—19th c. mediums are aberrant symptom of the wakening of "modern" female sexuality

cf. [Henry James's] The Bostonians, Padmore book

 

"The psychology and physiology of 'the instant'"

 

Mary McCarthy can do anything with her smile; she can even smile with it.

 

 

A brain-damaged woman who—even after she'd mostly recovered—couldn't follow a movie.

 

The Beatles, their quaternity.

 

Damp mollusks of 12-year old girls.

Dexamyls [a form of amphetamine on which SS became dependent for writing in the mid-1960s and which she used until the early 1980s, though in diminishing doses] are called, in England, "Purple Hearts" (they're purple, not green [as in the U.S.]—kids take them 20 at a time, with Coke ... Then (lunch hour) pop into a "cave" (nobody over 21 admitted) and [dance the] Watusi

 

 

Hemingway wrote a parody of Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio; it's his 2nd novel, Torrents of Spring (1926), just before The Sun Also Rises.

 

 

Arnold Geulincx (1624-69), the Belgian philospher—follower of Descartes—[Samuel] Beckett, as a student, read him—[Geulincx] holds that a reasonable man is nowhere free, except in his own mind—doesn't waste energy trying to control his body in the external world.

 

 

Adjectives:

...

8/19/64

Story: "The infinite system of Couples"

...

 

 

Cockney slang: rhyming plus knight's move to the side

Breasts = Bristol (city > titty)

Teeth = Hampteads (heath > teeth)

 

Verbs:

...

 

 

Horrifying to feel one's integument (skin) pierced

 

Annealed ...

 

 

[the American writer William S.] Burroughs:

Language = control

"Terrorist" attacks on language (cut-up method)

cf. [The French experimental writer Raymond] Roussel—Comment J'ai Écrit ...

 

Escape into space (sci-fi) vs. History

 

[The] Soft Machine Nova Express Naked Lunch Dead Fingers Talk

 

 

"Bumtrinkets"—bits of feces stuck to hairs of anus (cf. Cicely Bumtrinket in [the seventeenth-century dramatist Thomas] Dekker's Shoemaker's Holiday)

Ditto for "dingleberries"

 

 

Nouns:

...

 

 

"Une incertitude de jeunesse" ["youthful uncertainty"] (of [Bertolt Brecht's first play] Baal)

 

 

Sci-fi essay

1. Films better than the books—why?

2. Content

Figure of the scientist as Satanist ([Goethe's] Faust, Poe, [Nathaniel] Hawthorne)

• treatment of the scientist as one who releases forces which if not controlled for good could destroy man himself

• cf. old vision of scientist (Prospero, etc.) as a dotty magician only partly in control of the forces in which he dabbles.

Sci-fi as modern allegory:

Modern attitude toward madness (being "taken over")

Modern attitude toward death (incineration, extinction)

 

 

Rich fund of metaphors (Jonathan [Miller, British writer and director]) from:

1. Computers

2. Hydraulics

3. Photography; optics

4. Physiology of crustaceans

5. Architecture

6. Chess + military strategy

[Examples of Miller's use of these metaphors:]

"Like the kick-start on a motor-bike—now I'm going on my own."

"Yards of prose."

"Final suicidal Pickett's charge against ..."

"Chromium-plated with charm."

 

 

Jonathan: the intersection between psychiatry and aesthetics

 

...

 

 

British pops

Lonnie Donegan Chris Barber ...

Cliff Richard + his Shadows Cilla [Black] Helen Shapiro ...Mersey [Beat]: Beatles Dave Clark 5 The Rolling Stones The Beasts The Pretty Things The Birds ... Dusty Springfield

 

 

...

 

Sequence of a migraine:

 

Loss of perspective (flattening out) > "fortification phenomena" (white lines—zooming in from side; one-sided) > nausea and vomiting > acute hemicrania

(holding site is always part of acute pain)

 

 

SMELL is the largest sensory area in the brain and also the most primitive

Very powerful but not articulated—can't do anything with it (just naming)

All accent, no syntax

Smelling gives one a knowledge of sensation rinsed clean of thought (unlike hearing and seeing)

 

Osmology, as opposed to logology

 

 

[The French writer Nathalie] Sarraute—

 

Tropismes (first book)—something like "prose poems"—Sarraute calls them that.

First one written in 1932.

Volume was published in 1939 (Denoël), republished by Éditions de Minuit in 1957, with 6 more written between 1939 + 1941

 

This is her form!—her texture is anti-novelistic, though she's decided to write "novels" + launched an important critique of the novel on the basis of her method.

 

 

Sperlonga—beach near Rome

 

 

...

 

In old age, the cereberal arteries silt up—gradual diminution of blood supply to the brain

8/20/64

...

 

Influence of photography on painting:

1. Off-centering: main subject is in a corner ([the Italian director Michelangelo] Antonioni, [the Swiss-American photographer] Robert Frank).

2. Figures in motion: [the nineteenth-century English photographer Eadweard] Muybridge. Previously, all figures are either at rest (in repose) or at the end of a motion (e.g. farthest the limb can be extended)

Compare dancing figures in Breughel with Degas's Horses at Longchamps

3. Understanding of focus: eye can't see focusing, since it does so automatically, it's a function of attention.

All painting prior to photography is in even focus. As the painter's eye traveled from plane to plane, each went into focus.

 

 

Quality of film [stock] is important—whether grainy or not; old stock or new ([Stanley] Kubrick used WWII unused newsreel stock for War Room sequences in Dr. Strangelove)

 

 

Mont Blanc fountain pen (Fr.)

Italic script (get book on)

Read Poe on "Magnetism," and "The Imp of the Perverse."

 

 

[This is highlighted:] Off-centering big technique in modern fiction and poetry

 

 

Words have their own firmness. The word on the page may not reveal (may conceal) the flabbiness of the mind that conceived it. > All thoughts are upgrades—get more clarity, definition, authority, by being in print—that is, detached from the person who thinks them.

 

A potential fraud—at least potential—in all writing.

 

How revealing to meet [Richard] Eberhart, [Paul] Tillich, Dwight Macdonald, Mary McCarthy!

 

Jonathan [Miller]: "I take Trilling's ideas less seriously since I know him."

 

 

Sensibility is humus for the intellect.

There's no syntax for sensibility—hence, it's ignored.

 

 

Reading criticism clogs conduits through which one gets new ideas: cultural cholesterol.

 

One's ignorance is a treasure, not to be casually spent ([Paul] Valéry)

 

 

Body type [SS is describing herself]:

• Tall

• Low blood pressure

• Need lots of sleep

• Sudden craving for pure sugar (but dislike desserts—not a high enough concentration)

• Intolerance for liquor

• Heavy smoking

• Tendency to anemia

• Heavy protein craving

• Asthma

• Migraines

• Very good stomach—no heartburn, constipation, etc.

• Negligible menstrual cramps

• Easily tired by standing

• Like heights

• Enjoy seeing deformed people (voyeuristic)

• Nailbiting

• Teeth grinding

• Nearsighted, astigmatism

• Frileuse (very sensitive to cold, like hot summers)

• Not very sensitive to noise (high degree of selective auditory focus)

Pills one takes for reducing hypertension are depressants Alcohol is a depressant

8/22/64 Paris

The incredible pain returns again and again and again.

8/23/64

Finished the story. "An American Destiny," for the moment. I see now that it's mined from the vein that produced [SS's firstnovel] The Benefactor—it's a sort of miniaturized Frau Anders story, more drastically comic.

[In the margin:] My pop art story

 

Gains

• Third person rather than first

• Fantasy America, rather than fantasy France (because I'm in Paris?!)

• Use of slang,—active verbs

8/24/64

Great art has a beautiful monotony—Stendhal, Bach. (But not Shakespeare.)

 

A sense of the inevitability of a style—the sense that the artist had no alternatives, so wholly centered is he in his style.

 

Compare [Gustave] Flaubert and [James] Joyce ("voulu," constructed, intricate) with [Choderlos de] Laclos and [Raymond] Radiguet.

 

The greatest art seems secreted, not constructed.

 

 

Camp: irony, distance; ambivalence (?)

 

Pop art: only possible in an affluent society, where one can be free to enjoy ironic consumption. Thus there is Pop art in England—but not in Spain, where consumption is still too serious. (In Spain, painting is either abstract or social protest realism.)

 

 

Armature—in sculpture

 

 

[Josef von Sternberg's 1930 Hollywood film starring Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper] Morocco:

 

Dietrich: clean, solid—movements never weak or floating or petty—sparse

Von S: profuse

 

[In the margin:] They highlight each other by their differences

 

 

"Fagotage" (m.)—botch; ridiculous way of dressing 

"Fagoter" (verb)—to dress (a person) ridiculously > Is this where "faggot" comes from?

 

 

Movies seen since Aug. 11:

The Crowd (King Vidor)—Cinemathèque Bande à Part ([Jean-Luc] Godard)—Gaumont Rive Gauche Une Femme est une Femme (Godard)—Cinemathèque La Grande Muraille (Jap[anese]?)—Normandie Maciste Contre Le Cyclope (It[alian]?)—Ciné 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]

 

Gothic horror in films

The institution—cf. [Robert Wiene's 1920 Weimar film The Cabinet of Dr.] Caligari, etc.

8/28/64

"The Primary and most beautiful of Nature's qualities is motion, which agitates her at all times, but this motion is simply the perpetual consequence of crimes, it is conserved by means of crimes alone."

—[Marquis] de Sade

 

Humanism = moralizing the world, thereby refusing to acknowledge the "crimes" of which de Sade speaks.

 

 

What one is is the idea one has of oneself. If one thinks one is loveable, one is; beautiful, talented, etc.

8/29/64

[The American sociologist Philip Rieff, to whom SS was married between 1950 and 1959] P. [hilip Rieff]—

 

Everyone else not real—very distant, small figures. I would have to swim a thousand miles to reach the margin of the relationship,on the other side of which might lie other people, and it was too far, I was too tired.

 

The almost infinitely extending network of that relationship; its dense weave That's what held me—

 

Not (at least nowhere as strongly as I. [Irene Fornés])

The sense of P.'s uniqueness, value, preciousness—

 

H. [Harriet Sohmers Zwerling, who was SS's lover when she was a student at the University of California, Berkeley, and then the lover of both Irene Fornés and SS in Paris in 1956 and 1957]—very sloppy, loosely woven relationship—hence possibility of friendship, much later.

 

 

If one knew one would live 200 years, would one be as tired at 35?

 

Is the being tired a spontaneous complicity with death—a beginning to let go at what one judges to be about the right time, half way?

Or is it objectively so, that one would anyway be tired at 35 and spend the next 165 years "se traînant?" ["moping around"]

 

 

If one could amputate part of one's consciousness ...

 

What appeared to Annette [the American film scholar Annette Michelson, whom SS met in Paris in 1957] as narcissism sixyears ago: I was still so unawakened, so out of focus. So dead, or, rather, unborn.

 

 

I will never just outlast this pain. (Healing passage of time, etc.) I am frozen, paralyzed, the gears are jammed. It will only recede, diminish if I can somehow transpose the emotion—as from grief to anger, from despair to assent. I must become active. As long as I continue to experience myself as done to (not doing) this unbearable pain will not desert me—

 

 

Persistent motive in my writing:

X speaks, asks, demands—but if doesn't answer, turns away. X tries to make the best of it.

 

[A note, undated, is inserted:] I will be alright by 7:00 am this morning

 

 

M. [Mother] didn't answer when I was a child. The worst punishment—and the ultimate frustration. She was always "off"—even when she wasn't angry. (The drinking a symptom of this.) But I kept trying.

 

Now, the same with I[rene]. Even more agonizing because for four years she did answer. So I know she can.

Those four years! That huge length of time—its weight, its almost palpable thickness—obsesses me. "How can she ..." etc.

 

I'm so stuck on the "was" of people—

 

...

8/30/64

Yves—

Fragile

Hypochondriac, thin, needs 10 hours of sleep a night—lives on pills

 

From provinces—Nantes, Poitiers

Petit bourgeois

Father—had a small clothing factory, makes uniforms for the army

Mother—an antique dealer

 

Red hair, white skin, regular features

 

Works for army on rockets—big center in banlieue

 

"Je sais que je vais vieillir trop tôt et ..." ["I know that I will grow old too early, and ..."]

 

Paranoid—

Stole money from bank (father's friend) + from queer art gallery dealer (Annette's friend)

"Denise"—calls her Régine—she's 20, works this summer in Paris for an airline.

First time he was with Annette: "If only someone could see me now." For the last three years.—Annette: "Elle n'est pas ma reine à moi" ["She's not my very own queen"]

 

 

From parataxis (loose association of clauses) to hypotaxis (more precise indications of logical relationships + subordination)

 

 

...

 

Play: Doctor World is a body

 

 

Writing is a little door. Some fantasies, like big pieces of furniture, won't come through.

 

 

In ancient religion all significant behavior was acc[ording] to a divine prototype.

 

Man > arena of forces, battleground

Gods = names of important things

a. Homer on volition (cf. Snell [the German classicist Bruno Snell, author of The Discovery of Mind in Greek Philosophy and Literature]

b. Tragedy

A causal analysis

A god wills > humans act

No conception of roles

 

Modern idea of individuality < > role-playing (i.e. self-consciousness)

 

Compare Hamlet and Oedipus

9/3/64

How beautiful [von Sternberg's 1935 film] The Devil Is a Woman is! It's one of the most extreme films I've ever seen. Dietrich is completely object—almost lacquered, embalmed. Research into the absoluteness of décor: style obliterating personality ... Dietrich is "mounted" inside her costumes, her huge hats—behind the confetti, the streamers, the doves, the grilles, the rain ... Décor is "surcharge," both beautiful and parodic—

 

Compare with [the Italian director Luchino] Visconti (Senso, The Leopard) +, of course, Flaming Creatures [made in 1963 by the American experimental filmmaker Jack Smith. SS had written an essay on the film, which would appear in her first collection of essays, Against Interpretation (1966).]

 

 

[John] Donne's "Sermon Preached at White-Hall"—Feb. 29, 1627

 

 

My faults:

• To censor others for my own vices*

• To make my friendships into love affairs

• To ask that love include (and exclude) all

*but, perhaps this becomes most hectic and obvious—reaches a climax, when the thing in myself is deteriorating, giving way, collapsing—like: my indignation at Susan [Taubes's] [SS's close friend from Cambridge, Massachusetts, days] and Eva [Berliner Kollisch's] [a friend of SS's and Taubes's] physical squeamishness.

 

N.B. My ostentatious appetite—real need—to eat exotic and "disgusting" foods = a need to state my denial of squeamishness. A counter-statement.

 

...

9/8/64

"I got away, but I had to leave my arms and legs behind ..."

 

Not to look back means cordoning off all sorts of things in the present which are too full of memories that can't be suppressed. To disinfect my life of—, of this nearly mortal grief, I find myself refraining from this, and this, and this. The greatest loss is sex. That, and so many other things, remind me of—.

I can't afford to allow the present any depth or ballast, because that means (for me) the past, and the past means all that was shared with—.

 

I feel—when I'm not sorrowing—so dry, like powder, like a helium balloon that's been let go—

I've forbidden myself to think, to feel, because thinking and feeling—

 

How can I go on this way?

And how can I not?

 

 

"Dearest—

"I'm sorry not to have written. Life is tough, and its hard to talk while one is gritting one's teeth ..."

 

 

Color in films

[Teinosuke Kinugasa's 1953 film] Gate of Hell

Senso

[Alain Resnais's 1963 film] Muriel

 

Two palettes: one based on skin color, one not (city, plastic, neon)

 

The orgasm—repeated overexposed sequence in [Resnais's 1961 film Last Year at] Marienbad

 

Relation of parody + self-parody in camp

 

[The twentieth-century French artist Jean-Robert] Ipous-téguy's sculpture—the heroic figure (large head, arms outstretched, pubic hair like a badge—penis rides free), in bronze, but cracked, fissured ...

 

 

"I don't want to know about your past. I have a feeling it would weigh too much."

"But we're not on a balance."

"But we are."

 

 

Marxism a position vis-à-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

 

—[Walter] Benjamin

Cinema = abolition of tradition = fascism

 

(Use this as introduction to Lukács essay)

 

 

 

Read the two novels of [the contemporary French novelist Jean-Marie Gustave] Le Clézio

 

"J'ai besoin de beaucoup de tendresse." ["I need a great deal of tenderness."]

 

"Écrire veut dire aller jusqu'au bout. J'ai renoncé à ça dans ma vie, mais dans ce que j'écris, je dois prendre un risque." ["To write means to go all the way. I've renounced this in life, but in what I write, I must take risks."]

 

"C'est trop et c'est juste assez pour moi" (Jean Cocteau) ["It's too much and it's just enough for me"] Motto of Cahiers du Cinéma American Cinema issue (Jan. 1963)

 

...

 

Lineage of Le Bavard [by Louis-René des Forêts]: Poe

[Jorge Luis] Borges says: [G. K.] Chesterton, [Robert Louis] Stevenson, + early films of von Sternberg

9/10/64

Do essays on:

• The first person narrative, the récit

• Von Sternberg

• [Herman Melville's novel] Pierre[: or, The Ambiguities]

• Style + silence Gertrude Stein, etc.

 

 

All great art contains at its center contemplation, a dynamic contemplation.

 

Camp is one of the species of behaviorism in art—it is, so extremely, it has no norm to reflect.

 

 

Modern aesthetics is crippled by its dependence upon the concept of "beauty." As if art were "about" beauty—as science is "about" truth!

 

 

[The contemporary American artist R. B.] Kitaj: "found + assisted object"

 

 

...

 

For Sarraute piece, read early essay by [Pierre] Boulez (printed by "Domaine Musicale") "On Hedonism."

 

For [SS's essay on the contemporary French anthropologist Claude] Lévi-Strauss, read [Paul] Ricoeur essay in Esprit

 

...

 

[The contemporary German composer Karlheinz] Stockhausen's work abolishes the notion of composition—proposes

1. Any rhythmic structure may be organically adapted to any tempo; 2) unlimited cycle of permutations.

Boulez rejects (1) + (2)

 

...

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

 

 

Spiritual chemistry ...

Effect irradiates into other zones ...

Cut the dialogue into panels and make a great screen of ...

10/3/64

Flaming Creatures is sexual, sexually stimulating (not just a spoof on sex) in the same sense that sex is also silly, grotesque, awkward, ugly.

 

One man thinks before he acts. Another man thinks after he acts. Each is of the opinion that the other thinks too much.

 

A murder: like a flashbulb (panoramic photo) going off in a dark forest, lighting up all the obscure, frightened woodland life. (Dallas—Nov. 1963)

 

 

Subject: the second birth of the self

 

Through the mad "project"

 

Shedding the past—exile—aborting the self

 

 

Principle of redundancy (e.g. traffic lights) red < > green up < > down stop < > go

 

Get more precise communication

 

English is so precise because it's so redundant ... > cf. [the twentieth-century English literary critic and poet William] Empson on complex words: words have resonances, halos, vibrations. Literary work is strung on them. "E.g. "fool," "honest"

 

Vs. a telegram

 

Redundancy necessary to convey info—but what is the connection with beauty, the non-utilitarian

 

Mathematicians say of a certain equation "it's beautiful" because it is so simple, so non-redundant.

 

Connection between style (stylishness) and redundancy [—] e.g. films of von Sternberg

 

Connection between redundancy and "the replicate."

 

 

Women are "politically transparent" in the 19th century.

 

 

We have all the elements—just have to bolt them down, then attack the warhead—then launch it.

 

 

Seep

Catenary curve

 

So much in modern life that can be enjoyed, once one gets over the nausea of the replicate.

 

Moralists like [the twentieth-century American writer on urbanism Lewis] Mumford vs. aesthetes like [the contemporary American architect] Philip Johnson.

 

Seriousness—the highest form is the same as irony.

11/1/64

I was afraid of my mother, physically afraid. Not afraid of her anger, afraid of her decreasing the little emotional nourishment she supplied me, but afraid of her. Afraid of Rosie [SS's nanny, Rose McNulty], too.

 

Mother slapped me across the face—for talking back, for contradicting her.

 

I've always made excuses for her. I've never allowed my anger, my outrage.

 

 

If I can't bring judgment against the world, I must bring it against myself.

 

I'm learning to bring judgment against the world.

 

 

As a writer, I tolerate error, poor performance, failure. So what if I fail some of the time, if a story or an essay is no good? Sometimes things do go well, the work is good. And that's enough.

 

It's just this attitude I don't have about sex. I don't tolerate error, failure—therefore I'm anxious from the start, and therefore I'm more likely to fail. Because I don't have the confidence that some of the time (without my forcing anything) it will be good.

 

 

If only I could feel about sex as I do about writing! That I'm the vehicle, the medium, the instrument of some force beyond myself.

 

I experience the writing as given to me—sometimes, almost, as dictated. I let it come, try not to interfere with it. I respect it, because it's me and yet more than me. It's personal and transpersonal, both.

 

I would like to feel that way about sex, too. As if "nature" or "life" used me. And I trust that, and let myself be used.

 

An attitude of surrender to oneself, to life. Prayer. Let it be, whatever it will be. I give myself to it.

 

Prayer: peace and voluptuousness.

 

In this, no room for shame and anxiety as to how the little old self rates in the light of some objective standard of performance.

 

One must be devout about sex. Then, one won't dare to be anxious. Anxiety will never be revealed for what it is—spiritual meanness, pettiness, small-mindedness.

 

 

Q: Do you succeed always?

A: Yes, I succeed thirty percent of the time.

Q: Then you don't succeed always.

A: Yes I do. To succeed 30% of the time is always.

 

 

 

 

Check:

 

Article by Lévi-Strauss on Christmas in The New Society (mag[azine])

 

[Marcel] Proust, "About Flaubert's Style," in Pleasures and Days, ed[ited by the American literary critic F. W.] Dupee (Anchor [Books])

 

Hermes—new French mag[azine] on mysticism ([Mircea] Eliade, [Alan] Watts, [Henry] Corbin, etc.)

 

[The contemporary French writer Michel] Butor, The Four Seasons, New World Writing (Rothko—soft Mondrians)

 

[SS marked an X in the margin:] Any trans[lation] in English of Louis-René des Forêts ([published by John] Calder in London)

 

 

Science fiction—

Popular mythology for contemporary negative imagination about the impersonal

 

Otherworld creatures = the it, what takes over

 

 

Essay: style, silence, repetition.

 

 

Kurt Goldstein, Language and Language Disturbances (Grune & Stratton, 1960)—

aphasia read

 

 

Noble feelings / ignoble feelings Dignity Respect Loyalty to oneself

 

 

...

 

Comparison between [Paul] Klee + Valéry

Theory + art

 

 

[The Russian-born American constructivist sculptor Naum] Gabo: negative space

 

To "construct" something is to carve the space out of it (to disclose the space).

 

[Gabo:] "We deny volume as an expression of space ... We reject solid mass as an element of plasticity." (1920)

 

Gabo: Must see the sculpture from all sides—it's three dimensional.

 

Innovations: Use of new materials—plastic, celluloid, wire; + making sculpture move (either to see it / or because the movement is the subject) > e.g. Kinetic Construction (1920)

 

Bring sculpture close to architecture.

 

 

[Marcel] Duchamp: Readymades as not art, but a philosophical point

 

 

Style:

 

Circular style ([Gertrude] Stein) > read Donald Sutherland's book [the American critic, playwright, and librettist, who, in 1951, wrote Gertrude Stein: A Biography of Her Work]

 

Cf. [Jean-Paul] Sartre on "the white style" of [Albert] Camus's L'Étranger [The Stranger]

 

...

 

 

W[illiam] James acknowledged that "morbid-mindedness"—defined it, rather—as ranging over "a wider scale of experience" than healthy-mindedness

 

—the "value" in what is evil or lunatic

 

 

[Erik] Satie's "furniture music"—background, not meant to be listened to with all one['s] attention

 

Andy Warhol's films

 

 

Read [the contemporary American literary critic J.] Hillis Miller book

 

Art is a form of consciousness

 

 

...

 

One difference between naming a feeling ("I feel terrible") and expressing it ("Ohh ... .") is the response you get: "Why?" or "What's the matter?" By naming a feeling in order to give vent to it—a practice very much promoted by psychoanalysis—you make a co-reasoner out of your consoler.

 

 

Use of markings on a roll of film (the "leader") as part of the content of the film: Bruce Conner's A Movie (like exposing the structure of a building, or—Brecht—the mechanism of the set)

 

Cross-cutting between old film quote + event in film:

 

Godard, Vivre Sa Vie [featuring] Renée Falconetti + Anna Karina

[The American experimental filmmaker Kenneth] Anger, Scorpio Rising [where he crosscuts between material from Cecil B.] DeMille's King of Kings + motorcyclist's orgy (sound track: "Going to a Party" [actually "Party Lights"])

[The Spanish director Luis] Buñuel's L'Age d'Or [with its] use of Christ to illustrate De Sade episode

 

 

Paul Ricoeur, "Structure et herméneutique," in Esprit, Nov. 1963

 

3 other essays on Lévi-Strauss in same issue, plus interview

 

 

...

 

18th century the great period of camp—distributed through whole culture

 

[Alexander] Pope—Spurious passage in "Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot": " ... And he himself one vile Antithesis."

 

[William] Congreve—Symmetrical (like billiards): passion A, passion B

 

Molière?

 

...

 

18th century drama: no development—whole character there—instant feelings summed up in an epigram—love born or dies

 

...

 

 

Characteristics of art nouveau paintings + drawings:

Symmetrical composition, attenuated curves, spare use of color, slender bodies.

Le Rouget's restaurant—Art Nouveau décor near Gare Montparnasse

 

 

...

 

Pornography

 

De Sade, Andrea de Nerciat, Restif de la Bretonne >>> triumvirate of 18th-century French libertines

 

Earl of Rochester [John Wilmot], John Cleland >>> English (N.B. [Laurence] Sterne, John Wilkes, + Robert Burns all belonged to erotic secret societies. Wilkes the Medmenham Monks, Burns the Caledonian Muses)

 

18th century—no guilt; atheism; more philosophical, polemical

19th century—guilt, horror

 

Andrea de Nerciat—career officer in French army (father was Italian); got to be colonel:

Two great philosophical works:

 

[Radiguet's novel] Le Diable au Corps (3 vols.)—alternates between narrative + dialogue; starts with countess (slut) + marquise (the heroine—like [Proust's character] Duchesse de Guermantes—beautiful, worldly, rich; everyone curries her favor)

Affair between the two—+ contesse tells stories.

Sex never condemned, always pleasurable

A lot of social satire

 

[Andrea de Nerciat's novel] Les Aphrodites (3 vols.)—a secret sexual society; tells stories.

 

Also a novel, Monrose; and Félicia (best known book—erotic but gallant, not pornographic)

 

 

...

Death = being completely inside one's own head

Life = the world

 

...

11/4/64

Proust, in a letter:

 

"What's more, ever since Hervieu, Hermant, etc., snobbish has been so frequently represented from the outside that I wanted to try to show it inside the person, like a wonderful kind of imagination ..."

 

Like camp

 

 

One criticizes in others what one recognizes + despises in oneself. For example, an artist who is revolted by another's ambitiousness.

 

 

Underneath the depression, I found my anxiety.

 

 

History of film

 

This is the first generation of directors who are aware of film history; cinema now entering era of self-consciousness

Nostalgia

 

[The German film scholar and writer Siegfried] Kracauer: movies—anti-art; anti-auteur

 

 

...

 

Femininity = weakness (or being strong through weakness)

 

No image of strong woman who is just strong, + takes the consequences

 

...

11/17/64

Conceiving all relationships as between a master and a slave ...

 

In each case, which was I to be? I found more gratification as a slave; I was more nourished. But—master or slave, one is equally unfree. One cannot step away, get out of character.

 

A relationship of equals is one not tied to "roles."

 

 

Where I detected envy, I forbore to criticize—lest my motives be impure, and my judgment less than impartial. I was benevolent. I was malicious only about strangers, people who were indifferent.

 

It seems noble.

 

But, thereby, I rescued my "superiors," those I admired, from my dislike, my aggression. Criticism was reserved only for those "beneath" me, whom I didn't respect ... I used my power of criticism to confirm the status quo.

 

 

Wayne Andrews, [Architecture, Ambition and Americans: A Social History of ] American Architecture

John Cage, Silence

Sir Oliver Lodge, Raymond

Daisy Ashford, The Young Visitors

11/22/64

Read Max Beerbohm, "Savonarola Brown," [Ronald Firbank's 1926 novel, Concerning the Eccentricities of] Cardinal Pirelli, Diary of Nijinsky

 

Soft-focus thinking (as in the 4 lectures) whose virtue is aliveness, being improvised, being contemporary to the situation in which it's uttered;—vs sharp-focus thinking (writing) which is more accurate, complex, unrepetitive, but has to be prepared in advance—like a Greek statue with blank eyes

 

 

Say I have a dreary feeling (Z) which I want to combat—a feeling which gives rise to something I repeatedly do or say that I wish I didn't.

 

If I merely suppress the behavior (if that's even possible) I recharge the feeling behind it.

 

Recipe for killing the feeling: Act it out in an exaggerated form.

 

The chagrin one feels then is far more memorable and therapeutic.

 

 

"depends where I get flung off ..."

 

read [the Austrian-British art historian Ernst] Gombrich, Wilhelm Meister [Goethe's second novel, The Apprenticeship of Wilhelm Meister, published in 1795]

 

 

Injured, scarred in the face

 

Marked Woman [1937 Hollywood film directed by Lloyd Bacon and Michael Curtiz and starring Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, and Lola Lane]

 

Bette Davis—M.

• smoking at beginning (sign of independence from boss—Johnny Vanning / blows smoke in his face).

 

 

Nietzsche: "no facts, only interpretations."

 

Art is never a photograph.

 

 

Mimetic theory of art: art < > reality

 

Plato: measures art by the standard of truth

 

Aristotle: emotional effect of lying.

 

 

Social facts > "fact"

 

Psychological facts > "imagination"

 

Many different relations between art + fact

1. reportorial

2. ironic—pop art [—] Andy Warhol's 129 Die; front page of [Hearst-owned New York tabloid that folded in 1963] Daily Mirror

3. Patronizing reality: New Yorker fiction; some passages in The Group

 

 

Problem as a writer: Never think of model Don't think of units of art as facts

 

"factless"

 

 

Erwin Straus, "The Upright Posture," Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 1942

 

 

...

 

Resurrections (in literature):

 

Osamu Dazai, No Longer Human, The Setting Sun

 

[Jan Potocki,] The Saragossa Manuscript

 

[Ghislain de Diesbach,] The Toys of Princes

 

[Machado de Assis,] Epitaph of a Small Winner

 

[Witold Gombrowicz,] Ferdydurke

 

[Stendhal,] Armance

 

[Knut Hamsun,] Pan

 

 

"Another merry day"

 

"Acting up a storm"

...

 

On [Antonin] Artaud-[Jacques] Rivière correspondance, pp. 45-52 of [Maurice] Blanchot, Le Livre à Venir.

...

Read [Thomas] Carlyle, Sartor Resartus on the dandy [—] "the dandiacal body"

 

"J'ai le cafard" ["I'm blue"]

12/3/64

Interesting new sculpture rejects the pedestal ([the American sculptor George] Sugarman etc.)

 

Refinement, finesse: Camp, based on an exaggeration of this value, makes this central; it isn't. Vigor, vitality is at least as important. But it is important. Cf. Jasper Johns

 

Essay on camp an example of the larger point—the imp[ortance] of—the idea of—sensibility. Talking about Camp a way of making this point.

 

Modern art related to 20th century revolution in the graphic arts. We are first generation in human history to live surrounded by print artifacts (comics, billboards, newspapers)—a second nature.

 

[The American art historian Meyer] Schapiro one of the first to be interested in [Jackson] Pollock, [Willem] de Kooning (late 40s)

 

Find Schapiro essay on modern art in The Listener, 1956

 

 

Warhol ideas: single image (monotonized); the impersonal

 

 

"What is it?" before "Is it any good?"

 

 

André Breton, a connoisseur of freedom

 

 

DUCHAMP

 

 

Meyer Schapiro

 

"The Nature of Abstract Art," Marxist Quarterly, vol. 1, no. 1 (1937) reply by Delmore Schwartz, a reply to that by Schapiro, op. cit., vol. 1, no. 2 (April-June 1937)

 

"Style" (Kroeber vol.) [Schapiro's essay in Alfred Louis Kroeber's Anthropology Today]

 

On Modern Art, The Listener, 1956

 

"Metaphysics for the Movies," Marxist Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 3 (Oct.-Dec. 1937)—attack on Mortimer Adler

• "On the Aesthetic Attitude in Romanesque Art," in [K. Bharatha Iyer,] Art & Thought ...

 

 

Priest and Worker: The Autobiography of Henri Perrin Translated and with an introduction by Bernard Wall

 

...

 

 

[There is a box drawn around this:] Style

 

Style as mode of change in art.

Consciousness of style the same as consciousness of historicity of the art work

Velocity of styles in contemporary painting

 

Contra "style," aestheticism—cf. [a friend of SS's beginning in the 1960s, the French critic Roland] Barthes, "Les Maladies du Costume de Théâtre"—Essais Critiques

 

...

 

 

Work of Art

 

An experiment, a research (solving a "problem") vs form of play

 

...

 

 

[Michelangelo Antonioni's film] L'Avventura

Hard to believe [it was made] only four years ago ...

 

Only learn at the end that Claudia is poor

 

...

 

A's scenes always have the same duration on screen as they w[oul]d in life—no manipulation of time in the cutting—

 

"Abandon the supernatural casuistry of positives + negatives"—A's refusal to make a villain of Sandro

 

Makes films about emotions, but refuses to let his actors "emote" (à la [the Italian film director Federico] Fellini + Visconti)—that w[oul]d be "rhetoric"

 

New style: "Against Rhetoric"

 

...

 

A's films are "literary" in that they are full of complex references

 

Self-conscious film-making—Fitzgerald['s Tender Is the Night] in L'A[vventura]

 

...

 

(They have literate scripts) but not like traditional stories

 

> A's films: a kind of writing ("caméra-stylo" [literally "camera-pen" of the French film critic and director Alexandre ] Astruc) done by the director who "uses" the actors

• Why does one "write"?

• Answer—idea of a film as recording, incarnating

Material must necessarily be diffuse, non-dramatic (hence, failure of [Antonioni's 1957 film] Il Grido)

 

 

...

 

[The next three entries have a box drawn around them.]

 

A number is the set of all sets which are equivalent to each other

 

A cardinal number is the class of all similar classes

 

To every finite set can be assigned a cardinal number

12/6/64

My friendships (Paul—[SS's friend the American artist Paul Thek] etc.) are weightless. Now, since—, I experience them as maintenance problems. I'm juggling my schedule, paying dues ...

 

"Every life is a defense of a particular form." [—the Austrian composer Anton] von Webern

 

(Kitaj painting)

 

 

Read:

 

Buy: OUP editions of [the Welsh alchemist and Rosicrucian Thomas] Vaughan, [Andrew] Marvell, + [the metaphysical poet Richard] Crashaw.

 

Vaughan sermon on dying

 

[The French writer Alfred de Musset's 1834 play) Loren-zaccio ...

 

Walter Benjamin's book on the baroque.

 

Frederic Farrar, History of Interpretation (1886)

 

Poe—stories

 

Iris Murdoch, "How I Write a Novel," Yale Review, spring '64

 

Franz Borkenau, book on 17th century (1934)—Pascal, Racine, Descartes, Hobbes [The Transition from the Feudal to the Bourgeois World View]

• John Cage, Silence

[The Russian filmmaker Vsevolod] Pudovkin on film [Film Technique and Film Acting]

 

...

12/19/64

Novel: discovering the life of the body (posture, gesture Carolee's [the American performance artist Carolee Schneemann] "I had to deal with the fire," [the Swedish sculptor] Claes Oldenburg's "very involved these days with hallways") ... two characters—one who makes it, one who doesn't.

Copyright © 2012 by David Rieff

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