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Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1963 (Journals of Susan Sontag #1)

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  1,237 ratings  ·  132 reviews
"I intend to do 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 v
ebook, 336 pages
Published October 27th 2009 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 2008)
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I can't imagine Susan Sontag as a young person because I've always encountered her as the staggering, cultured-to-the-umpteenth-degree uber-cosmopolitan critic that she is in her essays. It's hard to imagine someone like that ever being a kid. The journals in Reborn start when she's fourteen and she's already more complicated, moody, and painfully self-conscious than most people four times her age. You don't really see a development here as much as you get these brief, staccato flashes of intens ...more
James Murphy
This is the first of three planned volumes of Sontag's journals, edited by her son David Rieff. This volume covers the young and precocious Sontag from age 14 to 30. It's a period of learning for her though she already appears learned.

The early entries are about 2 primary awakenings. First is a blossoming intellectual strength through studies at Berkeley, Oxford and the Sorbonne followed by a return to the U. S. and a professorship at Columbia. The early 60s also saw her writing her first novel,
Three years ago The Guardian ran some excerpts from an upcoming edition of Susan Sontag's journals, and despite being at that time little more to me than a massive literary reputation, I was dazzled by her penetrating, often brutal self-dissection of her own personality and intellect. I even dared think I recognized a sensibility shockingly similar to my own. Fast-forward through several years and the journals, a compilation of her earliest, are here, and yes, my suspicions have been borne out. ...more
What an important book to read when your life is a mess.
Zöe Yu
Can't score her lower, wrote this at a such young age, mostly about her bisexual life in NY Chicago SF and Paris, should be more real if David didnt delete so many words! No wonder she was buried in Paris, Paris for her is the city where inspirited all her thoughts. Gedanke! All things about her relationship, early marriage, David's childhood are so attractive. And I knew it's something about me! Irene is one of the most important girl in the journal, and philip Rieff as well, but actually you c ...more
This is the first thing I've read by Sontag, and perhaps a strange place to start. As reading enjoyment the beginning was the most compelling as Sontag undergoes swift changes in her intellectual landscape and social life. Her endless list of books to read are all inspiring and act as doorways to other people to check out (Kafka's diaries, Gide). The latter part is a little more scattered, but still filled with interesting and often pretty dark views into her psyche while leaving her family behi ...more
"I am not myself with people [...] but am I myself when alone? That seems unlikely, too."

When reflecting on Kafka's diaries, Sontag rightly writes that "Kafka has that magic of actuality in even the most dislocated phrase that no other modern has, a kind of shiver and grinding blue ache in your teeth." Sontag also praises the "clarity and precision" of Gide's diaries, remarking that she feels herself rapidly 'growing' through reading them. The charm of Sontag's diaries lies elsewhere - I think,
Ironically, nearly my favorite part of Reborn: Journals & Notebooks 1947-1963, edited by her son, David Rieff, is his painfully straightforward preface to the book. The NYTimes review captures the tone of it perfectly in this quote:

"All but visibly wincing, he states that he would rather have left them unpublished. They are raw and unvarnished and perhaps that is a virtue; still, they contain “much that I would have preferred not to know and not to have others know.” Reading her entries, he
this was such an interesting read; had the effect of making me feel like a huge underachiver (when Sontag was my age she was already a college freshman?? I'm freaking over a-level philosophy and she's read so much so deeply so varied???) but it's also cool to get this insight into her mind, to see that there were ideas/worries, things weren't always perfectly formulated, etc.

some parts I skimmed over - there are a lot of lists! fun to write, less fun to read, I think? some documentation got a b
"In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself."

I've encounter Susan Sontag several times in my life: through the shrewd critical framework presented in 'On Photography' and 'Illness as Metaphor', through her novels - especially 'The Volcano Lover' - and through the quasi-mythological cultural icon image she presented to the world. This volume, then, was interesting, for it provided a look at the extraordinary lengths that Sontag went to fash
An impossible book to rate, so I'm going with the tyranny of the mean.

Personally, I found it really interesting to visit with the lists and rants of young Sontag - I love her essays and am fascinated by the life arc that supported her thinking, and there's something inherently entertaining about hanging out with her notebooks of old. I do feel like I learned something here, though it wasn't anything that had ever been a secret - it was more about what kind of space she carved out for her inner
Alexandra Loobeensky

Jeżeli ktoś będzie kiedyś usiłował wmówić ci, że zna człowieka bardziej spiętego, znerwicowanego i ambitnego, niż wczesna Susan Sontag – wątp w to. Ponad trzysta stron uwag na temat książek, filmów, muzyki, filozofii, wrażenia z terapii, przemyślenia dotyczące osób, życia seksualnego: to wszystko, napisane stylem rwanym, gorączkowym, wchodzi w skład wydanej niedawno "Odrodzonej", stanowiącej pierwszy tom planowanej przez wydawnictwo Karakter trylogii dzienników. Wyłania się z nich bez
I read The Volcano Lover: A Romance a while back and seem to remember enjoying it, or at least not hating it. I meant to read more Sontag at that time, but then as typical I got distracted by something else. But then I came across this in the store, flipped through it, and fell in love.

I love journals. My own, artist's journals, writer's journals, your journal, whatever. If I'm given permission, I'll read it. But it's sort of a touchy thing with me, one that causes a lot of internal conflict. On
1. One must bear in mind, reading this selection from Susan Sontag's diaries, why they were edited and published in the first place: Sontag sold her diaries, along with all her writings, to the UCLA library, and since there was no clause limiting rights to access or publication of these materials, her son, journalist David Rieff, decided to order and publish the diaries as a form of preemptive strike (feeling/phrasing mine).

2. Three planned volumes are to represent nearly 100 notebooks.

3. The d
Rose Gowen
I always read autobiographical writing thinking, "I do that/I'm like that-- but I'm not like that, I never do that." I'm not a lesbian or a towering intellect, but there was plenty that was familiar here. I was feeling dull in my writing, and hoping to find something to perk me up, but this isn't a book for that-- she's more often exhorting herself to write more than expressing joy or pleasure in it. (I found it so interesting that she worried about spending all the thought she might use for wri ...more
No one can deny that Susan Sontag was brilliant. Her way with words, even in journals, completely astounds me. But reading this without any serious biographical notation or experience with her other writings from this time left me feeling unhinged and unconnected to her notes. I feel guilty giving a star rating to anyone's journals, but as an edited and published book, I think I can make an exception.

Still, my three stars should not discourage anyone from reading this who is already a fan of Su
I just read all the other reviews of this book, and am wondering what I missed. It may have been that I listened to it on Audible and the reader's tone didn't do the content any favours, but I love Susan Sontag's work, and I was looking forward to something that showed the progression of her early thinking - so much so that I listened to over eight hours of Reborn: Journals and Notebooks.

The books and authors she might have been reading (she often listed future authors to read as well as past)
although i already give practically everything three stars as passive protest against star-ratings, it feels even weirder to rate a journal. like, what? how? what are the standards here? dumb. anyway. i feel like i jumped the gun a bit here, remembering what geoff dyer wrote in out of sheer rage about how when one/he likes a writer one first reads, of course, the published writings, but then one wants to get ever closer to the person, reads the journals, the letters, until one couldn't possibly ...more
I carried this around at the Strand for a whole hour and tried to put it down a number of times, but it just stuck to me. And then when I was in line the girl behind me praised it greatly.
I am not much of a diarist, but in a strange way this book made me feel whole, like I HAD been keeping a diary since I was 14.
I don't know who to recommend it for, but it's a book that expanded on my relationship with other people - poorly phrased and lofty, but there you are.
The first few pages of this book are striking – because of the intellect they reveal. At fourteen and sixteen, Susan Sontag produces insights about life and love that most people do not discover – let alone articulate – until their early twenties.

As she grows older, her insecurities slowly take shape on the page (this is, after all, a collection of her private journals), but these insecurities are striking too – what do you learn, for example, when you find that a woman so obviously talented ha
I must not think of the solar system—of innumerable galaxies spanned by countless light years—of infinities of space—I must not look up at the sky for longer than a moment—I must not think of death, of forever—I must not do all those things so that I will not know these horrible moments when my mind seems a tangible thing—more than my mind—my whole spirit—all that animates me and is the original and responsive desire that constitutes my “self”—all this takes on a definite shape and size—far too ...more
It's not an easy read. I've never read diaries before. scattered text. unfinished thoughts. random events.
You can't rate this book the way you rate other books. My rating is based on how much I was touched by the book.

Some of my highlights (I wish I highlighted more ...)

Highlights from my kindle

"The really important thing is not to reject anything—When I think how I wavered about actually coming up to Cal! That I actually considered not accepting this new experience! How disastrous (although I
The lady next door in Great Neck who said her father died. How? His heart stopped. Oh.

P is a bleeder, in fact physically, and emotionally, too. He won't die of this grief but neither will he ever recover from it.

To write, is to spend oneself, to gamble oneself. But up to now I have not even liked the sound of my own name. To write, I must love my name. The writer is in love with himself... and makes his books out of that meeting and that violence.

I remember expressing amazem
idea 1 to digest - " jerry bruner: how does X judges that Y ishis friend (likes him)? Women tend to judge on the basis of giving behaviour - if Y has given X presents, X judges that Y likes her. Men tend to be suspicious of giving- behaviours, judge on the evidence of the agreement. X judges that Y likes him if he agrees with him"

idea 2: "the most precious thing is vitality - not in any sinister (D.H.) Lawrentian sense, but just the will + the energy + appetite to do what one whants to do + not
Feb 26, 2009 Shannon rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who don't mind cringing a lot
this was in Private Eye, and it's a pretty good distillation of the book:

Reborn: Early diaries
Susan Sontag

11/25/47 (aged 14)
I believe:
that there is no personal god or life after death;
that the most desirable thing in the world is freedom to be true to oneself;
that mumps are probably better than measles.

2/29/48 (15)
…and what it is to be rapt in the youthfulness of one’s imaginings, waking all astart in cerebral flame to glimpse the ravening, anguished urgency
This gave me a good concept of who Susan Sontag was.

Her son published this diary posthumously.

Through the day-to-day diary entries, mostly fragments, you get a good idea of her biography from the age of 17 to around 30.

Born in 1933, she was barely 17 when she started college.

Her early romantic and sexual relationships give me a good insight into feminist issues, and the issue of a woman's self-actualisation, starting with erotic experiences. Reflections on her sexual goals and frustrations are i
In Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947–1963, the first of three volumes of Susan Sontag’s personal journals to be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, readers are offered an exhilarating glimpse into Sontag’s early experiences of school, marriage, lesbian relationships, motherhood, and life in Paris. Sontag’s writing, mainly brief, one sentence thoughts that encapsulate an entire experience or theoretical thought, often stream-of-consciousness or simply composed of lists of books to read or ...more
An intimate journal of a sensitive universal genius, some of the most inspired thinking i've ever read. On top her anti-intellectual attitudes seeking emotional experiences and adventures, her care for people and relationships offer a human(-istic) side to musings on life that many obsessed geniuses ignore. I can't imagine who would not be captivated by this.

SS was a humanistic and emotional prodigy writing things that humble me from the age of 15 (seemingly having read hundreds of books by then
Aug 08, 2010 Vicky rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ardith
Shelves: journals
A delight it is to read Susan Sontag's notes and thoughts between the ages of 14 and 30, to be impressed by her intellect, to identify with her flawed relationships with women, to sit in bed reading all this, becoming absorbed by her life, like it moves me somehow. I'm still new to her body of work, but I have this image of her as very serious, full of poise, upright posture, always certain. That's why it surprised me to read the later entries where she was in such self-doubt, asking herself how ...more
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Jewish American literary theorist, novelist, filmmaker, and feminist activist.
More about Susan Sontag...

Other Books in the Series

Journals of Susan Sontag (2 books)
  • As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980
On Photography Against Interpretation and Other Essays Regarding the Pain of Others Illness as Metaphor & AIDS and Its Metaphors The Volcano Lover: A Romance

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“It hurts to love. It's like giving yourself to be flayed and knowing that at any moment the other person may just walk off with your skin.” 111 likes
“I want to be able to be alone, to find it nourishing - not just a waiting.” 108 likes
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