Happy Birthday, Susan Sontag
Without detracting too much attention from the empire that is Kate Moss and its 40th anniversary of life on earth, it has to be said that on a quieter, perhaps more literary corner of the earth, another natal day is being celebrated for Susan Sontag who, until I graduated college was simply the evil mastermind behind “Illness as Metaphor.” I’m not going to say the book set in motion my near failing a class (that, mind you, was called Tuberculosis: A History) but I’m also not going to say it didn’t.
And it’s not that I didn’t appreciate the nonfiction work, I was just really, really stupid. When I read “Notes on ‘Camp’” though, everything changed, and five years older but arguably none the wiser I’ve managed to put past the negativism that initially affected our relationship. So in honor of her life and what would have been her 81st birthday, enjoy ten of our favorite Sontag musings and then go drink a cup of coffee because if you were an intellectual, that’s exactly what you’d do.
On taking action and paying attention: “Do stuff. be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. stay eager.”
On photos: “All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.”
On the truth about insanity: “Sanity is a cozy lie.”
On men and their perceptions of self: “Women may be vain, but when a man is vain, it is beyond believing, for a man is willing to die for his vanity.”
On shrewd inquisitiveness: “The only interesting answers are those which destroy the questions.”
On collectors: “Collecting expresses a free-floating desire that attaches and re-attaches itself—it is a succession of desires. The true collector is in the grip not of what is collected but of collecting.”
On writers: “A writer, I think, is someone who pays attention to the world.”
On the purported truth about love: “It hurts to love. It’s like giving yourself to be flayed and knowing that at any moment the other person may just walk off with your skin.”
On the handicaps we bequeath ourselves: “All the conditions of modern life–its material plenitude, its sheer crowdedness–conjoin to dull our sensory faculties.”