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Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1963
     

Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1963

by Susan Sontag, David Rieff
 

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"I intend to do everything...to have one way of evaluating experience—does it cause me pleasure or pain, and I shall be very cautious about rejecting the painful—I shall anticipate pleasure everywhere and find it too, for it is everywhere! I shall involve myself wholly...everything matters!"

So wrote Susan Sontag in May 1949 at the age of sixteen.

Overview

"I intend to do everything...to have one way of evaluating experience—does it cause me pleasure or pain, and I shall be very cautious about rejecting the painful—I shall anticipate pleasure everywhere and find it too, for it is everywhere! I shall involve myself wholly...everything matters!"

So wrote Susan Sontag in May 1949 at the age of sixteen. This, the first of three volumes of her journals and notebooks, presents a constantly and utterly surprising record of a great mind in incubation. It begins with journal entries and early attempts at fiction from her years as a university and graduate student, and ends in 1964, when she was becoming a participant in and observer of the artistic and intellectual life of New York City.

Reborn is a kaleidoscopic self-portrait of one of America's greatest writers and intellectuals, teeming with Sontag's voracious curiosity and appetite for life. We watch the young Sontag's complex self-awareness, share in her encounters with the writers who informed her thinking, and engage with the profound challenge of writing itself—all filtered through the inimitable detail of everyday circumstance.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The first of three planned volumes of Sontag's private journals, this book is extraordinary for all the reasons we would expect from Sontag's writing-extreme seriousness, stunning authority, intolerance toward mediocrity; Sontag's vulnerability throughout will also utterly surprise the late critic and novelist's fans and detractors. At 15, when these journals began, Sontag (1933-2004) already displayed her ferocious intellect and hunger for experience and culture, though what is most remarkable here is watching Sontag grow into one of the century's leading minds. In these carefully selected excerpts (many passages are only a few lines), Sontag details her developing thoughts, her voluminous reading and daily movie-going, her life as a teenage college student at Berkeley discovering her sexuality ("bisexuality as the expression of fullness of an individual"), and meeting and marrying her professor Philip Rieff, with whom, at the age of 18, she had David, her only child. Most powerful are the entries corresponding to her years in England and Europe, when, apart from Philip and their son, the marriage broke down and Sontag entered intense lesbian relationships that would compel her to rethink her notions of sex, love ("physical beauty is enormously, almost morbidly, important to me") and daughter- and motherhood, and all before the age of 30. Watching Sontag become herself is nothing short of cathartic. (Dec.)

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Library Journal

Sontag's son Rieff (A Bed for the Night), who served as his mother's editor until her death in 2004, has edited the first of what is to be a three-volume set of her journals-some of which were originally excerpted in the New York Times(e.g., "On Self"). It is fascinating-and sometimes distressing-to see Sontag's intense and often excoriating appraisal of herself: "No matter what I have said...my actions say...that I have not wanted the truth." The entries have been selected for "the rawness and the unvarnished portrait...of...a young person, who self-consciously and determinately went about creating the self she wanted to be"; and as Rieff puts it, "to say these diaries are self-revelatory is a drastic understatement...[my] mother was not in any way a self-revealing person." Recommended for literary collections in medium to large academic and public libraries; an optional purchase for others. [See Prepub Alert, LJ8/08.]
—Felicity D. Walsh

From the Publisher
“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

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781466812017
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
10/27/2009
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
336
File size:
270 KB

Read an Excerpt


REBORN
194711/23/47 
I believe:(a)That there is no personal god or life after death(b)That the most desirable thing in the world is freedom to be true to oneself, i.e., Honesty(c)That the only difference between human beings is intelligence(d)That the only criterion of an action is its ultimate effect on making the individual happy or unhappy(e)That it is wrong to deprive any man of life [Entries "f" and "g" are missing.](h)I believe, furthermore, that an ideal state (besides "g") should be a strong centralized one with government control of public utilities, banks, mines, + transportation and subsidy of the arts, a comfortable minimum wage, support of disabled and age[d]. State care of pregnant women with no distinction such as legitimate + illegitimate children.Preface copyright © 2008 by David Rieff

Meet the Author

Susan Sontag immediately became a major figure of our culture with the publication in 1966 of the pathbreaking collection of essays Against Interpretation. She went on to write four novels, a collection of stories, several plays, and seven works of nonfiction, among them On Photography (1977) and Illness as Metaphor (1978). Her many international honors included the Jerusalem Prize (2000) and the Friedenspreis (Peace Prize) of the German Book Trade (2003). She died in New York City on December 28, 2004.


Susan Sontag was the author of four novels, including In America, which won the 2000 National Book Award for Fiction; a collection of stories; several plays; and seven works of nonfiction. She died in New York City on December 28, 2004.

David Rieff is a New York-based journalist and author. During the nineteen-nineties, he covered conflicts in Africa (Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Liberia), the Balkans (Bosnia and Kosovo), and Central Asia. Now a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine, he has written extensively about Iraq, and, more recently, about Latin America. He is the author of eight books, including Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West and A Bed for the Night: Humanitarianism in Crisis. His memoir of his mother’s final illness, Swimming in a Sea of Death, appeared in January 2008. Based in New York City, Rieff is currently working on a book about the global food crisis.

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