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Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1963

(Journals of Susan Sontag #1)

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  2,686 ratings  ·  264 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
Hardcover, 318 pages
Published December 9th 2008 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Apr 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, recs
The first of three volumes of Susan Sontag’s diary, Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1963 charts the development of a sharp intellect. The volume follows the famous writer from her beginnings at the University of California Berkeley as a precocious sixteen-year-old undergraduate student to the time of her first novel’s publication. Reading lists, story ideas, and aesthetic judgments on film, literature, and art intermix with fast-paced descriptive passages, lengthy accounts of affairs with f ...more
sheena d.
Nov 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-oz
What an important book to read when your life is a mess.
Apr 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
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,
Jul 28, 2015 added it
Shelves: journals
As I read Susan Sontag's journals, I thought, as is I think kind of inevitable, where I was in my late teens and early 20s, when Sontag was off cavorting with geniuses in Paris and reading dense German romantic epic poems in the original. Let's face it, I was probably ripping a bong in an attic.

Sontag's journals, fractured as they are, are a remarkably portrait of the inner thoughts of one of the 20th Century's big name intellectuals, as she went through book after book and a couple of what were
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
Aug 28, 2014 rated it liked it
"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,
Mar 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: coeur, journaux
had never underlined that many sentences in a book before
susan how DARE you read my mind like this

— the diary of a growing woman, exploring both her Judaism and lesbianism while documenting her numerous cultural discoveries, from movies to books to pieces of classical music. composed of both intimate thoughts about repressed feelings and destructive relationships and more general ones about literature, philosophy, art or even love, this book is as rich as Sontag’s mind and lively life in NYC, Paris, and other places where she meets other great figure
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
Jun 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 writ
Zöe Zöe
Jul 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: criticism, us, non-fiction
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
Jan 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Dorotea by: S;
Reborn is a collection of the diaries of the American author Susan Sontag covering her earlier years – starting from when she was 13. If only I could write like teenager Susan does! Honestly, her writing is superb. The diaries are rather interesting, full of notes and scraps, the occasional literary fragment or longer entry about her life, plenty of reading lists, etc.

While the talk of sex bores me, I loved everything else: when she repeats to herself “do something”, when she talks about the “he
Jun 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First, I think it doesn’t make sense to rate someone’s private thoughts. Thoughts that weren’t meant to be read. Although, Sontag wouldn’t be Sontag if she didn’t twist that logic and states the opposite somewhere in this collection. Her journals were meant to be read. Just before she died, she even reminded her son of the whereabouts of them.

This is the first in a collection of three volumes containing Sontag’s journal entries, selected and edited by her son David Rieff. This first volume spans
Mina-Louise Berggren
A lovely gift from Libby, and a very immediate and intense read. Did not underline, but read aloud sentences and some concepts-- on the whole very enjoyable. And can't wait to read the next two. She was very obviously brilliant.
Jan 23, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Jan 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Jonathan Maas
Dec 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great book but be warned - it is what the title says it is. This is her journals and notebooks. They are not edited, and not all necessarily meant for publication.

But they are an insight into her raw thoughts - and worth a look!
Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
loving is the highest mode of valuing, preferring. but it’s not a state of being.
[with no other comment, ss notes down the cyrillic spellings of lenin and stalin]

sdhfgdhgfdhfgdhj i love her (unceasingly intellectual) mind
Nov 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Susan and I share: an obsessive need to accumulate and arrange books, overthinking everything
2020 has just started and this already feels like the most influential book I am going to read this year. Primarily because it has made me want to write more, to note down more thoughts, to distil. Susan says writing is creating oneself, not just an aid to memory. I agree – though I think the creation happens because you let the memories build on each other. That is what makes us human: our ability to learn from the past, develop on it, observe and identify patterns.Writing helps to recognise wh ...more
Actual rating 3.5

It seems weird to rate and review someone's journals.
So very intimate and what a picture it paints of Susan Sontag, what a complex, intelligent woman - and there are indeed many more descriptive words I could now insert. (Heartbreaking? Vulnerable in a sense, at least vulnerably honest and open about herself to herself.)

I'll cherish the memory of acquiring this shiny paperback - tucked into the last huge shelf at Alinea (a wonderful, wonderful bookshop in Luxembourg City), when
Laura Alice Watt
Apr 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
A strange book, that took me years to finish -- in that i would read snippets for a time, and then put it down again for a long stretch. Full of lists, and short bursts of observation, from her adolescence through her late twenties -- as the book jacket says, "a constantly surprising record of a great mind in incubation." I've dog-eared a lot of pages, to go back and re-read some day, and do not necessarily feel I understand Sontag better from having read the book, yet perhaps understand a few t ...more
Daniel Johnson
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The best book to make you feel jealous and inadequate—by 15 Sontag had mastered the histories of literature and philosophy, met with Thomas Mann (!) at his home, and still had time to cryptically remark on her complex romantic life. A writer’s journal that Sontag herself would undoubtedly love to read.
Susan Sontag’s mind... there’s simply nothing alike
Aug 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Haven’t read any published diaries before and this was a good one to start with. Wild to think Sontag went to college at age 16.
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
a gift
Jul 12, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
I found the reading lists inspiring, but overall, it's very much a personal notebook - interesting from a voyeuristic point of view, but only offering glimpses at Sontag's life.
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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)
  • As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980

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