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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 28, 2008
Aside from David Rieff's overly meddlesome editing, this collection of journals is a penetrating, deeply personal portrait of the late Susan Sontag. Perhaps what is most astonishing in this scattering of notes, commentaries, and lists, is Sontag's astonishing precociousness. Her entries at the age of 16 bear the mark of a burgeoning intellectual of the first order. We are granted access (perhaps for the first time)to Sontag's personal life, and given her reclusive nature I couldn't help feeling that I was reading something that should not have been published. Still, what is most interesting here is Sontag, the young collector of ideas and works of art, living life the only way she knew how-with intellectual and moral "seriousness" and undying passion. A fantastically entertaining read.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2009
the editing is maddening. i have no tolerance for it. i love the journals and the notebooks, their halting unrestrainedness (as if she planned for them to be read), their candor, their (at times) bombast and naivete, but i become so frustrated with the editor's interference that at times, i have to put the book down.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 20, 2012
Her son notes that Susan Sontag's diary filled about a hundred notebooks. When she was ill she made sure her son knew where her diaries were kept. The diaries are self-revealing. The son has misgivings.

The diaries are filled with people, social engagements, musings, comments about literature and philosophy. Sontag's favorite high school teacher was blacklisted a few years after she graduated. Susan Sontag wondered how to make anguish metaphysical.

In a somewhat fictionalized version of her life, Sontag asserts she had always had a desire to go to Europe. Watching dancers she opines that every person has a mystery. A friend complains that Susan Sontag is not very sharp about other people, what are they thinking and what are they feeling. Her reading is hoarding.

The ideas and people Susan Sontag selects to focus on are described in lively fashion. The editing is perfect, unobtrusive.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 24, 2013
I really loved Sontag’s diary. It reveals her as a passionate intellectual, in pursuit of full living, one could even say of having it all – loving both sexes, reading all that she can get her hands on, coping with her wish to write, become an author herself. She also revealed herself as an uncertain woman, a woman who doubts her choices and has a hard time making decisions. But I really had trouble with the editor’s interventions. Having read a lot of published women’s diaries, I have never seen an editor’s commentary intervene with the author’s text. The editor’s comments should have been written in endnotes or footnotes, and should not have made a mess of the original text. I do not think the editor had bad intentions, but the result is really troubling, and it sometimes even made me mad! Nonetheless, I am looking forward to reading the second part of the journal, As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh.
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on March 27, 2015
Not as substantive as volume two, which I had previously read (her young age a factor, albeit the qualities of her youthful interests and accomishments impresses). At 68, I've long been a student of SS; it adds to my understanding. I saw her in a NYC theatre lobby of Irene Fornes's play (Letters/Cuba), but not a "celebrity worshipper," I stayed away. I now wish I had simply said, thank you.
Nicholas Aharon Boggioni.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2009
It depends on what you want to get from the memoirs of Sontag. I bought this book for two reasons: 1. I wanted to know more about her lesbianism in her early days; 2. I was fascinated by occasional witty (if not cynical) entries. Her words offered me unique insights and visions that could only come from an intellectual and educated scholar.

However, many of the entries recorded many banal and meticulous details that would only amuse Sontag scholars. And they in turn become the tedious part that kills the joy of reading this significant book published after her death.
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on May 20, 2013
direct insight into the blossoming of an intellectual. and an outsider, from girlhood. riveting, expansive, helplessly sad. particularly poignant when writing about sexuality and love.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 22, 2012
Always loved the cover photo of Susan Sontag. Too bad the writing inside is very serious with no lightheartedness at all. For a young person, Susan comes off as very sober and melancholy much of the time. The cover photograph offers a clue. See how she stares at the person taking the picture with haughty disdain? Susan looked down on the world from an intellectually privileged cliff. Yes, she was a noted thinker who affected a striking presence, and I've been intrigued w/ her for a while. No doubt about it she was an enigma. Sadly, her writing leaves me cold, and cold she was. Usually, I love reading journals because they often offer a valuable glimpse into a person's psyche. Superior journals and highly recommended would be those written by: Kenneth Tynan, Sylvia Plath and John Fowles. The single revelation of this book is Susan Sontag's lesbianism. She battles with it and never came out during her lifetime even though she was urged to do so. Therein lies the problem. The ultimate responsibility for any artist is to be true to themselves. Authenticity is paramount, and the emotional core of the individual seals the deal. The woman had a heavy dose of attitude, that's for sure, and no detectable sense of humor. Everything is serious and high brow all the time - like living inside an Ingmar Bergman movie. If she ever lightened up - and I assumed she did - that never enters into this journal. Also, Sontag was very much European in her brain, and her tastes consistently travel in that direction: European music, literature and film.

I echo the other reviewer's comments about the heavy editorial hand Susan Sontag's son, David Rieff, plays in this journal. He is overly intrusive and explains many things which are quite apparent. Like an overly attentive waiter who keeps stopping by your table, Mr. Rieff keeps interjecting where there's no need for his guiding hand.

I love reading journals, but this is just very spare, and Susan Sontag never reveals anything of much substance. I wanted to discover more about this person, but this just wasn't that kind of journal. Ultimately, journals are written for the individual writing it and not for any reader who comes by after the fact. So, considering the journal's true purpose cancels out any criticism anyone may have.

Lastly, consider this entry "Was going to take a shower and wash my hair, but felt too indolent." Fascinating.
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on October 12, 2014
Perfect--came with another book and great book seller.
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on December 12, 2014
Superb. Great insight into this important author.
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