This, the second of three volumes of Susan Sontag's journals and notebooks, begins where the first volume left off, in the middle of the 1960s. It traces and documents Sontag's evolution from fledgling participant in the artistic and intellectual world of New York City to world-renowned critic and dominant force in the world of ideas with the publication of the groundbreaking Against Interpretation in 1966.
As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh follows Sontag through the turbulent years of the 1960s—from her trip to Hanoi at the peak of the Vietnam War to her time making films in Sweden—up to 1981 and the beginning of the Reagan era. This is an invaluable record of the inner workings of one of the most inquisitive and analytical thinkers of the twentieth century at the height of her power. It is also a remarkable document of one individual's political and moral awakening.
"The notebook has become an art form," writes Sontag toward the end of this second collection of her own notebooks and journals. Beginning as the Vietnam War is heating up and ending right before the Reagan era, this volume offers at times deliciously mad and maddening aphorisms (even notes for an essay on the aphorism), compulsively compiled lists ("Movies I saw as a child..."), and acute observations on her self, oddly without veering into autobiography. There are surprisingly few allusions to her cancer in the mid-1970s. "These journals show Sontag playing with and discovering the words to express many of the central themes of her most scintillating work, such as kitsch. She also treats themes as disparate as Marshall McLuhan, Samuel Beckett, her one-time lover Mar a Irene Forn s, and as the '60s close, revolution, and much more. Editor Rieff, Sontag's son, eschews footnotes in favor of bracketed identification of people, as well as the meaning of many shorthand fragments. America's Simone de Beauvoir, Roland Barthes, and Simone Weil rolled into one, Sontag fascinates with her teeming interests turning in on themselves.