Monday, December 01, 2008


Deborah Eisenberg has a lovely piece in the latest issue of the NYRB on the first volume of Susan Sontag's letters and journals, edited by her son David Rieff. The whole thing is well worth reading, but here's a nice bit:
It must always be fascinating to observe a child going about unwrapping the package that is herself and starting to inventory the contents. And how much more fascinating it is when the child is able to chronicle the process and the contents themselves are fascinating! Not that Sontag's rhapsodizing or her disdain are remarkable in a fifteen-year-old, and neither, particularly, are the objects of her rhapsodizing and disdain; this was a period during which it was fashionable among certain adolescents to read serious literature and listen to serious music, and adolescents of many periods have considered their parents to be morons. And Sontag's intellectual precocity, though striking, is hardly peerless—just think of the age Mozart was when he was writing some of the music she listens to with such discrimination!

Very startling, though, is her unhesitating sense of purpose—the sense that she is an acolyte, engaged in some devotional practice, continuously purifying herself in preparation for a predetermined destiny that she has yet to fully understand. Naturally, we in the future happen to know that the child whose diary we're reading is to become Susan Sontag, but oddly enough, so, it seems, does she.
There is a short passage by Wittgenstein that this reminds me of, but I cannot lay hands on the book - I will poke around at the office tomorrow and see if I can find it there (I think I have two copies and that they are both at the office!)...

1 comment:

  1. Don't you just love deborah eisenberg's writing? The story "Some Other, Better Otto" in the "Twilight of the Superheroes" is one of my favorites. she's a great auntie too.