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As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980

(Journals of Susan Sontag #2)

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  1,016 ratings  ·  103 reviews
This, the second of three volumes of Susan Sontag's journals and notebooks, begins where the first volume left off, in the middle of the 1960s. It traces and documents Sontag's evolution from fledgling participant in the artistic and intellectual world of New York City to world-renowned critic and dominant force in the world of ideas with the publication of the groundbreak ...more
Hardcover, 523 pages
Published April 10th 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Jun 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
One doesn't learn from experience - because the substance of things is always changing. (pg. 83)

The only transformation that interests me is a total transformation - however minute. I want the encounter with a person or a work of art to change everything. (pg. 83)

For a year (age 13) carried the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius always with me in my pocket. I was so afraid of dying - + only that book gave me some consolation, some fortitude. I wanted to have it on me, to be able to touch it, at
Apr 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Decline of the letter, the rise of the notebook! One doesn't write to others any more, one writes to oneself.

So we have 500 pages of such musings, a mixed and often undercooked lot. Through the process, a human portrait is revealed: vain, slothful, codependent. Finishing this last night, I pondered whether Sontag would've approved of her son editing and publishing these writings to herself. The amount of personal information I publish here weekly in the course of reviews and comments made that c
Apr 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: journals
I love all the tortured parts—Sontag's relationship insecurities with other women and her feelings of not writing enough—which is the best thing about this book. I don't care for her son's terrible bracket edits (ugh), nor reading her fragments for pages and pages, though yeah I know this is a notebook. I kept thinking about Nin while reading Sontag, one so emotional and sensual in the prose, the other so intellectual and tense. This took me a long time to finish because I had so many parts to c ...more
Aug 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
If weird and bizarre Orientalist aphorisms are dealbreakers for you (and they are for me. We all have our Things) then it would be best to skip 1968 and parts of 1972-73. There's also some REALLY UNFORTUNATE RACIST/ABLEIST TERMS used at around p.345, so maybe skip that too. Maybe you're wondering why I even bothered giving this any stars at all? It's because it's a diary, and because there are a lot of moments where Sontag really exquisitely lays bear this deep pain and melancholy. I disagree wi ...more
Mina-Louise Berggren
Her emotional life is very easy to relate to-- and therefore quite moving. However her observations and opinions in this were usually either slightly embarrassing or just underwhelming. Whatever moves me is worth more to me than everything (anything) else, so I did enjoy this, but that is also the extent of it.
James Murphy
May 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Susan Sontag was a thinker. To read her journals is to have the impression she was only that, lacking a side as woman, lover, mother, or friend. But she was all of those things, as she knew. Her journals seem to be attempts to weld the two sides of herself into one person, to harness her enormous intellect and interests to the flesh of the woman she was. She says she's not saying things in absolute terms. She claims to be allowing something to be said, something independent of herself. I'm not s ...more
Heather Fowler
Aug 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
What I love about this book is that it is an accumulation of journals and, as such, has the sort of urgency and private feel to it that almost represents voyeurism. Between lists of Sontag's readings and cinema rankings, ideal short fiction collection ideas, glimpses at her analysis of how some of her work was experienced, and general thoughts about intellectualism/intellectuals of her acquaintances, there was also this extreme analysis of self and identity. In tiny parcels. I loved the parts ab ...more
Aric Cushing
A book of amazing ideas, but not a cover to cover read. For researchers of Sontag, this would be a great reference. Unlike Anais Nin's journals, this journal is a collection of disparate ideas and contemplations.
Worse than the other diaries of Sontag I've read, but at the same time more relatable. Rather than Sontag the wunderkind, you get Sontag the kind of confused, pretty smart, but on the whole mostly confused writer of fragments that you feel like you could know -- I felt like I could have written many of these myself, which, despite the fact that I do take pride in my writing, should be a bit of a dig on a writer of Sontag's stature. Also, saying things like "Fantasia is like, fascist" should be c ...more
Jun 21, 2020 added it
Shelves: queer
first off, it's so extraordinary to have sat through over 30 years of a person's life through their diaries — nearly a thousand pages of a person's thoughts — ideas that grow and stagnate. it's such a gift to know this side of a person. i know it makes her kid david uncomfortable to edit these, but i'm desperately seeking part 3 and it's been...8 years. hello?? can someone please connect me to david rieff?
this installment is less exciting than vol 1. to me. part of it is that part 1 is an initia
Jul 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: autobiography
I learned about this book from the blog "brain pickings" which reviews off the beaten track books. Disjointed, passionate, brilliant snippets from the personal journals of Susan Sontag, edited by her son. At times, I felt like I was looking at things she really would have preferred to keep private. At other times, the writing felt strangely disconnected from reality:

"The right hand =the hand that is aggressive, the hand that masturbates. Therefore, to prefer the left hand! romanticize it, t
Nov 07, 2014 rated it liked it
I was fortunate to be reading this along Rapt Attention and the Focused Life; Sontag's journal is an excellent example of how focus works. Sontag was - or seemed - very effective in directing her attention and _organising her interests into projects and areas for further study_. (She also suffered from severe case of tunnel vision romantically, or so she comes accross). I believe the standard response to this volume is to wish to write more - notes, lists, projects. ...more
Zöe Zöe
Dec 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book to understand more thoughts beyond Susan Sontag's interviews and novels. I wanted to say more here, but probably I'd better go back to my proposal and nail that one first.

She categories writers with three teams. And the publishing of this book already made her in the third team, as she wanted, to be like Kafka, that her words "become reference points for successive generations in many languages."

Jun 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The more important question is, "What did Carlotta think?"
Jun 10, 2018 added it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2018
I'm not generally interested in memoirs, (auto)biographies, or diaries/journals/letters, for reasons I won't mention here, but, after reading some of Sontag's nonfiction (On Photography, Regarding the Pain of Others, and some essays from Against Interpretation), I admittedly became intrigued by and, frankly, enamoured of Sontag's mind.

I haven't read every page. Rather, on occasion (usually at night, before bed), I grab the book and flip through the pages, reading with relish the many nuggets of
May 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2018
I really enjoyed reading this, but I wish it had been slightly less edited - there are some passages that are nearly impossible to read because of how many square-bracketed explanations there are. Plus, abbreviations like “betw” feel very different than “betw[een]” so I do kind of wish those had just been left alone. Still definitely worth reading though!
May 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Abandoned it some months ago cos I couldn't get through the Vietnam section (too fragmented and vague) but as a whole incredibly insightful and fun. on page 409 she calls Fitzgerald's oeuvre "midcult junk"
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More often than not, I couldn't keep up, but it was compelling reading. Google and my Kindle dictionary got quite a workout! As with the first volume, kudos to her son, David Rieff, for his meticulous editing.
Mar 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Absolutely brilliant personal snapshot into the times and life of this intelligent, gentle and sharp woman. Savoured every page, which honestly felt like being invited to a party in which it was only the two of us: old friends drunk and laughing about joy and melancholy under warm lights. She demonstrates a dazzling clarity in interpreting everything from the mundane to the profound, and sprinkles it with a unique approach to work and writing.

There were moments in the book which were serendipit
Nov 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-we-love
Jamie Carr (Tin House Books, Editorial Intern): “5/5/64. The right hand = the hand that is aggressive, the hand that masturbates. Therefore, to prefer the left hand!…To romanticize it, to sentimentalize it!” And so begins Susan Sontag’s As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980. Compiled by her daughter, this volume tracks Sontag’s wanderings, artistic influences, struggle to find a sense of self outside of her romantic relationships, anger about the American war ...more
Mar 08, 2015 rated it liked it
Solitude is endless. A whole new world. The desert.

I am thinking—talking—in images. I don’t know how to write them down. Every feeling is physical. Maybe that’s why I can’t write—or write so badly now. In the desert, all ideas are experimental in the body. I touch a central place, where I have never lived before. I wrote from the margin, dipping down into the well but never fully gazing down. I drew up the words—books, essays. Now I’m down there: in the center. And I find, to my horror, that th
Apr 03, 2012 marked it as to-read
"Being in love (l’amour fou) a pathological variant of loving. Being in love = addiction, obsession, exclusion of others, insatiable demand for presence, paralysis of other interests and activities. A disease of love, a fever (therefore exalting). One “falls” in love. But this is one disease which, if one must have it, is better to have often rather than infrequently. It’s less mad to fall in love often (less inaccurate for there are many wonderful people in the world) than only two or three tim ...more
Feb 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Disjointed, gorgeous, well-arranged and includes fascinating journal entries on lovers, projects completed and abandoned, and thoughts on art and literature. Would absolutely recommend to those familiar with/interested in Sontag.
L a n c e
so glad they are publishing these in such quick succession.
采铜 于山
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I gave this book a five star for the impressive reflections,self_analysis and wisdom it contained.

I am not a big reader, in fact, quite ignorant of literature, ignorant of many things I am supposed to know, walking life like a mindless wanderer.

Fortunately, I encountered Susan Sontag. The passionnate losing of myself in searching answers I have yearned so earnestly finally came to me naturally. I have never been fascinated by a person this much, her penetrating eyes, her sharp eyes, the lucid,
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I confess that I had not previously read any work by Sontag but certainly had heard of her. I saw this book in the returns at the library, and it sounded interesting. That said, it is long. Hundreds of pages long. But, the pages are not fully populated by a myriad of words but instead of parsed thoughts.

This book is the journal extraction of just one of the time periods of Sontag's life. I most appreciated exposure to the inside of a writer's mind-- her stream of consciousness recordings of adje
Fai Ahmed
May 06, 2019 added it
Shelves: favorites
“Solitude is endless. A whole new world. The desert.

I am thinking—talking—in images. I don’t know how to write them down. Every feeling is physical.

Maybe that’s why I can’t write—or write so badly now. In the desert, all ideas are experimental in the body.

I touch a central place, where I have never lived before. I wrote from the margin, dipping down into the well but never fully gazing down. I drew up the words—books, essays. Now I’m down there: in the center. And I find, to my horror, that t
This makes me want to keep a notebook specifically of all my random lists and ideas. And then burn it afterwards, so as not to burden others with these kinds of that get stuck in your head about relationships, nationalism, and writing. Here's my favorite: "All capital cities are more like each other than like the rest of the cities in their country."
John Roberson
Nov 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm one of those Sontag readers who is pretty much entirely into her essays, and I think I like this even more. Pure, uncut access into Sontag's fluid thoughts. I listened to this as an audiobook, and it's like music made of thought. You can see the starts of the essays bubbling up throughout.
Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this book all the time. Never linearly, and I don't think I've ever/will ever *finish(ed)* it. I just like to read bits of this book when I'm trying to write, but I'm feeling too boring and I need instead to be feeling unhinged. I love it! She's a maniac.
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Susan Sontag was born in New York City on January 16, 1933, grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and attended high school in Los Angeles. She received her B.A. from the College of the University of Chicago and did graduate work in philosophy, literature, and theology at Harvard University and Saint Anne’s College, Oxford.

Her books include four novels, The Benefactor, Death Kit, The Volcano Lover, and In Am

Other books in the series

Journals of Susan Sontag (2 books)
  • Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1963

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