December 15, 2008

"Admitting my mistakes, when I have been cheated or taken advantage of -- a luxury that should be rarely indulged."

"People may seem to sympathize, really they despise you a little. Weakness is a contagion, strong people rightly shun the weak."

That's a note in a private journal. How would you describe the writer?

1. Someone who is trying very hard "to transcend her limitations, to imagine a different way of existing," who "seems to harbor a secret image of herself as sloppy, idle, and weak."

2. Someone who has decided to exercise power over others.

Obviously, I think #2. #1 is Katie Roiphe, fawning annoyingly over Susan Sontag.

19 comments:

rcocean said...

Sontag does not expend the energy on being charming, or even comprehensible, that most people paradoxically do in their private journals.

Charmless and incomprehensible - I cant wait.

Ann Althouse said...

Yeah, and then there's that wonderful "almost preternatural lack of humor."

Paddy O. said...

"Isn't Nietzsche dreamy?"

dbp said...

That humor thing struck me as well. A person lacking in humor in their own private journals. How is that ever a good sign?

William said...

I remember reading a review of some book about Sartre and Simone deBeauvoir. As human beings they were truly hideous. As a couple, they were hideous squared. What was shocking was not that they had a rotten relationship that that so many intellectuals found something admirable and worthy of emulation in that rotten relationship...Sontag was a woman who needed to make promises to herself to bathe daily. How can you be such a preening moral narcissist and not bathe regularly? Roiphe's review reveals a deeply flawed woman. Her admiration of that deeply flawed woman says something about herself....With superhuman self restraint I do not draw any parallels to any coverage of Barack Obama.

Meade said...

And how would one even go about making an observation such as, "Most Americans start making love as if they were jumping out a window with their eyes closed?" Gee, if a lover said something like that to me, I think I'd open my eyes wide, grab my coat, and jump out the back door in a jiffy.

Plus, maybe it's just me but that line brings to mind the WTC jumpers for whom Sontag expressed sympathy only well after first opining that the suicide-hijackers showed a lack of cowardice and scolding Americans for being stupidly inadequately strong.

What is with some intellectuals anyway?

Tibore said...

"Ann Althouse said...
Yeah, and then there's that wonderful "almost preternatural lack of humor."


You know, that line out of that article actually annoyed me. "Preternatural"... as if Sontag's being inhumanly unhumorous was a state imposed through supernatural mechanisms, rather than flowing naturally from her choices in life, her intellect, and her general persona. In short, as if she couldn't help but be dour, not that she chose to be.

It's bad enough that the author chose to utilize apologia rather than illuminate her subject, but to do so in such flowery manner ("... preternatural lack of humor...") doubles the annoyance.

Richard Dolan said...

"In his rather beautiful and tormented introduction, Rieff wonders whether he should have published these journals at all, as his mother never made her wishes clear before she died. But the reader, at least, is grateful that he did. The notebooks are invaluable for anyone interested in how the serious and flamboyant intellectual dreamed up her greatest project: herself."

I haven't read that "beautiful and tormented" introduction. Perhaps it gives some good reason why a son would want to publish stuff depicting his mother in such a light. My guess is that the reason for publishing Sontag's diaries was all about the son not the mother.

siyeh pass said...

It’s clear to me, that the answer is both. The writing is of an ego-maniac with an inferiority complex. This is one who believed (or hoped) they could do just about anything invincibly (with impunity). But, on the other hand, or at least over time, they eventually becomes suspicious or even acutely aware that they’re a fraud and are failing at life – and miserably so.

When one sees life like this, what else would they journal about? It’s not written to entertain, but for many, it’s a way getting down on paper those thoughts that haunt, in hopes that the haunting ceases. A good sign, no, but very real and dark, and very human.

Synova said...

Admitting my mistakes, when I have been cheated or taken advantage of; or my weaknesses, when I fail to be organized or industrious; it is almost a service, after a fashion, because so many people feel overwhelmed or foolish and they feel better to know that others struggle, too.

Do they despise me a little?

No one I care to be around would do so. I think that mostly people feel a little more competent and a little bit encouraged, and confident they won't be judged.

Bissage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bissage said...

Susan Sontag spelled backwards is Gatnos Nasus.

siyeh pass said...

Synova - be glad - you've been dealt a pretty good hand, as have your circle of friends. Don't be too sure, though, that there may be some holding their cards close to the vest.

Alex said...

So how did this thread turn into a discussion about WTC jumpers? Why won't the media show us those videos? They kept showing us the Duke Rape case even though there was no rape.

Meade said...

>So how did this thread turn into a discussion about WTC jumpers?

It didn't. I was free associating again. Wisely, no one followed me there.

>Why won't the media show us those videos?

Which media? You can see them on YouTube if you choose to.

>They kept showing us the Duke Rape case even though there was no rape.

Oh but that was different. That made America look bad. Which, you know, is good. For ratings.

Ralph said...

A grown woman named Katie is bound to be annoying. Annie Liebo-lesbo doesn't appear to be a barrel of laughs, either, and why didn't she get the publishing rights to this diary?

I doubt Sontag had much experience with being taken advantage of.

Ralph said...

The second page goes to nowhere. Glad to see the Slate editors are on the ball.

"spectacular", "breathtaking"
banal.

knox said...

What is with some intellectuals anyway?

Meade, I know you probably meant this as a rhetorical question, but I'll answer it anyway: lack of imagination. At a loss for anything original to say, they just try to think of whatever is the opposite of common sense/popular wisdom--or even common decency--on a subject and then package this "analysis" as deep thinking.

Lots of artists do the same.

Meade said...

knox, Great answer to, you're right, a rhetorical question. Lack of imagination, yes, and I would add -- lack of a sense of humor, particularly the sense of being able to laugh at one's self due to fear of losing advantage in human relationships.

How pinched it must feel to live life that way.