Most helpful critical review
4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Susan's Closely Held Cards
on 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.