Read In 2015 #25: Reborn: Early Diaries, 1947-1963, by Susan Sontag

"My emotional life: dialectic between craving for privacy and need to submerge myself in a passionate relationship to another."

Published: 2008 / Rating: 4/5 / Pages: 320

"In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself." The first of three volumes of Susan Sontag's journals and notebooks, "Reborn" (1947-1963) reveals one of the most important thinkers and writers of the twentieth century, fully engaged in the act of self-invention. Beginning with a voracious and prodigious fourteen-year-old, "Reborn" ends as Sontag, age thirty, is finally living in New York as a published writer.

Susan Sontag was an American writer and filmmaker, teacher and political activist, publishing her first major work, the essay "Notes on 'Camp'", in 1964. Sontag was active in writing and speaking about, or travelling to, areas of conflict, including during the Vietnam War and the Siege of Sarajevo. She wrote extensively about photography, culture and media, AIDS and illness, human rights, and communism and leftist ideology. The New York Review of Books called her "one of the most influential critics of her generation."

This book (or rather, collection of thoughts scribbles into her notebook) was an incredibly interesting and sincere look into Sontag's early life. Ever since I became aware of her a number of years ago she has always appeared as this impeccably cultured, intimidating, cosmopolitan woman, so to read about her as a teenager and young woman was an enticing prospect. Of course, even as a fourteen-year-old Sontag was already more eloquent and intellectual than I could possibly ever hope to be, but it definitely revealed a side of her that was very self-conscious and awkward.

Reading about her teens and twenties made me think of my own (that I'm still experiencing) and inevitably led me to comparing hers and mine: Sontag; studying at Oxford, writing frankly and eloquently about homosexuality, living it up in Paris, me; writing university essays the night before they're due, eating an entire bag of chips in one go, drunkenly stumbling home after too many vodka raspberries at The Rotchy. Nevertheless, she documents her struggles painfully and honestly, and really made for a fascinating read.

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