The diaries of Susan Sontag

Cover00 (1)Melissa Anderson at Bookforum:

“MY DESIRE TO WRITE is connected with my homosexuality. I need the identity as a weapon, to match the weapon that society has against me,” Sontag wrote on December 24, 1959, the year she divorced Philip Rieff, whom she married when she was seventeen, in 1950, and whom she identifies in this same entry as her “enemy.” She ends that day’s observations with this: “Being queer makes me feel more vulnerable. It increases my wish to hide, to be invisible—which I’ve always felt anyway.”

A few years later, her critical—public—language began to make visible the invisible, disclosures sometimes marked by anxious disavowals. In “Notes on ‘Camp,’” first published in 1964 and collected in her inaugural collection of criticism, Against Interpretation and Other Essays (1966), Sontag meticulously distills a gay (male) sensibility, only to offer this strange repudiation: “Yet one feels that if homosexuals hadn’t more or less invented Camp, someone else would.” The essay that gives this volume its title, also first appearing in 1964, however, more boldly situates its author as a voluptuary. The famous conclusion to “Against Interpretation”—“In place of a hermeneutics we need an erotics of art”—might be thought of as a corollary to what Sontag recorded in a 1965 diary entry: “Every art incarnates a sexual fantasy—” This maxim would include, especially, the seventh art; both Reborn and As Consciousness contain prodigious lists of films Sontag had viewed in just a matter of days or weeks. She would worry, decades later, that the ceremonies of the cine-sensualist were near extinction. “

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