“Don’t criticize publicly anyone at Harvard.”
The second published volume of Susan Sontag’s diaries, As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980, gave us the celebrated author and thinker’s insights on love (now available as a limited-edition print!), writing, censorship, and aphorisms. But the first installment, Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1963 (public library), is in many ways even more fascinating, as we see a young Sontag begin to take shape as a private person and a public intellectual.
Immediately before turning 24 on January 16, 1957, Sontag produces the following list, a blend of the pragmatic and the aspirational:
Rules + duties for being 24
- Have better posture.
- Write Mother 3 times a week.
- Eat less.
- Write two hours a day minimally
- Never complain publicly about Brandeis [University] or money.
- Teach [SS’s toddler son] David to read.
Then, several weeks later, Sontag resolves:
- Criticize publicly anyone at Harvard –
- Allude to your age (boastfully, mock-respectfully, or otherwise)
- Talk about money
- Talk about Brandeis
- Shower every other night
- Write Mother every other day