Deborah Eisenberg over at the New York Review of Books (ever heard of it?) reviews the first volume of the diaries of Susan Sontag, who died in 2004. Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947–1963, is edited by her son, David Rieff, who has this to say about the book’s publication:
…I tend to believe that, left to my own devices, I would have waited a long time before publishing them, or perhaps never published them at all. There have even been times when I’ve thought that I would burn them. But that was pure fantasy…. While she was still well, my mother had sold her papers to the University of California at Los Angeles library, and…since the contract my mother concluded did not restrict access in any important sense, I soon came to feel that the decision had been made for me. Either I would organize them and present them or someone else would.
From what Eisenberg has to say, the journals—-which Sontag began writing at age 14—-are stunningly precocious, tortured, and often darkly funny. Writes Eisenberg:
Certainly the entries concerning the event of her marriage are so tightly sealed that one would think the author hardly wanted herself to learn of it. On November 21, 1949, she writes: “Excellently staged performance of Don Giovanni last night (City Center.) Today, a wonderful opportunity was offered me—to do some research work for a soc[iology] instructor named Philip Rieff, who is working on, among other things, a reader in the sociology of politics + religion. At last the chance to really involve myself in one area with competent guidance.”
The following entry is on December 2: “Last night, or was it early this (Sat.) morning?—I am engaged to Philip Rieff.”
Meanwhile, when my diaries are finally collected, they will consist of hastily aggregated blog posts on the diaries of Susan Sontag and screengrabs of stupid Sarah Palin videos.