The most prominent New York intellectual of her generation,
Sontag’s interest in traditional journal-keeping — with dated entries and considered sentences — was episodic. There are outbreaks of diary writing, though more typical are lists: of movies seen, books to read, places to eat and drink in the cities that interested her; and of words, usually English words but sometimes words and phrases in French, German, Greek, Italian and Spanish. There are lists of notable writers, poets or painters of a particular moment, all jotted with the meaningful intensity of a student, an intensity she kept throughout her life.
In certain periods, she traces every detail of her private life with anxious care; in other periods, close relationships seem hardly to have been noted. Exploratory passages of novel-writing further blur the line between private drama and literary or intellectual narratives. Seen in the light of her accomplishments and celebrity, Sontag’s life seems to have an admirable coherence. Her public persona was durable and unmistakably hers. But in the journals, the effort of it appears again and again: the reworking of the life and ideas, the total concentration, along with the excitement she felt when things were finally going well. She often meditates on this constant self-construction, and indeed some aspects of her life — the mixing of high and low culture, the sexual enthusiasm, the passionate intellectualism — would become, beginning in the 1960’s, hallmarks of the Downtown life.
The selection here begins at the end of 1958, when Sontag is about to turn 26. Her marriage to Philip Rieff had grown troubled, and with a one-year fellowship to study abroad, she planned to settle in Oxford,
29 December 1958, Paris
St. Germain des Prés. Not the same as Greenwich Village, exactly. For one thing, expatriates (Americans, Italians, English, South Americans, Germans) in Paris have a different role + self-feeling than provincials (e.g. kids from
The cafe routine. After work, or trying to write or paint, you come to a cafe looking for people you know. Preferably with someone, or at least with a definite rendez-vous.. . . One should go to several cafes — average: four — in an evening.
Also, in New York (Greenwich Village) there’s the shared comedy of being Jewish. That’s missing, too, from this bohemia. Not so heimlich. In Greenwich Village, the Italians — the proletarian background against which deracinated Jews + provincials stage their intellectual and sexual virtuosity — are picturesque but pretty harmless. Here, turbulent marauding Arabs.
. . .
The ratés, the failed intellectuals (writers, artists, would-be Ph.D.’s). People like Sam Wolfenstein [mathematician], with his limp, his briefcase, his empty days, his addiction to the films, his penny-pinching and scavengering, his arid family nest from which he flees — terrifies me.
Harriet [Sohmers, author and artists’ model]. Finest flower of American bohemia. New York. Jewish. Family apartments in the 70’s and 80’s. Middle-class business (not professional) father. Communist aunts. Own history of CP flirtation. Negro maid. New York high school, N.Y.U., experimental artsy-craftsy college,
My relationship to Harriet baffles me. I want it to be unpremeditated, unreflective — but the shadow of her expectations about what an “affair” consists in upsets my poise, makes me fumble. She with her romantic dissatisfactions, I with my romantic needs and longing.. . . One unexpected gift: that she is beautiful. I had remembered her as definitely not beautiful, rather gross and unattractive. She’s anything but that. And physical beauty is enormously, almost morbidly, important to me.
On Keeping a Journal. Superficial to understand the journal as just a receptacle for one’s private, secret thoughts — like a confidante who is
The journal is a vehicle for my sense of selfhood. It represents me as emotionally and spiritually independent. Therefore (alas) it does not simply record my actual, daily life but rather — in many cases — offers an alternative to it.
There is often a contradiction between the meaning of our actions toward a person and what we say we feel toward that person in a journal. But this does not mean that what we do is shallow, and only what we confess to ourselves is deep. Confessions, I mean sincere confessions of course, can be more shallow than actions. I am thinking now of what I read today (when I went up to 122 Bd. St-G to check for her mail) in H’s journal about me — that curt, unfair, uncharitable assessment of me which concludes by her saying that she really doesn’t like me but my passion for her is acceptable and opportune. God knows it hurts, and I feel indignant and humiliated. We rarely do know what people think of us (or, rather, think they think of us).. . .Do I feel guilty about reading what was not intended for my eyes? No. One of the main (social) functions of a journal or diary is precisely to be read furtively by other people, the people (like parents + lovers) about whom one has been cruelly honest only in the journal. Will H. ever read this?
. . .
Writing. It’s corrupting to write with the intent to moralize, to elevate people’s moral standards.
Nothing prevents me from being a writer except laziness. A good writer.
Why is writing important? Mainly, out of egotism, I suppose. Because I want to be that persona, a writer, and not because there is something I must say. Yet why not that too? With a little ego-building — such as the fait accompli this journal provides — I shall win through to the confidence that I (I) have something to say, that should be said.
My “I” is puny, cautious, too sane. Good writers are roaring egotists, even to the point of fatuity. Sane men, critics, correct them — but their sanity is parasitic on the creative fatuity of genius.
2 January, 7:30 a.m.
Poor little ego, how did you feel today? Not very well, I fear — rather bruised, sore, traumatized. Hot waves of shame, and all that. I never had any illusion that she was in love with me, but I did assume she liked me.
. . .
Tonight (last night!) at Paul’s place I reely wuz speeking French. For owers ’n owers, with him and his very sweet parents. What great fun!!
Yesterday (late afternoon) I went to my first Paris cocktail party, at Jean Wahl’s — in the disgusting company of Allan Bloom. Wahl [a philosopher] very much lived up to my expectations — a tiny slim birdlike old man with lank white hair and wide thin mouth, rather beautiful, like Jean-Louis Barrault [actor] will be at 65, but terribly distrait and unkempt. Baggy black suit with three large holes in the rear end through which you could see his (white) underwear, + he’d just come from a late afternoon lecture — on Claudel — at the Sorbonne. Has a tall handsome Tunisian wife (with a round face and tightly-drawn-back black hair) half his age, about 35-40 I’d guess, + three or four quite young children. Also there were Giorgio de Santillana [historian of science]; two Japanese artists; lean old ladies in fur hats; a man from Preuves; middle-sized children straight out of Balthus, in Mardi Gras costumes; a man who looked like Jean-Paul Sartre, only uglier, with a limp, and was Jean-Paul Sartre; and lots of other people whose names meant nothing to me. I talked to Wahl + de Santillana + (unavoidably) to Bloom. The apartment, it’s in the rue Peletier, is fantastic — all the walls are drawn + sketched + painted on by the children and by artist friends — there is dark carved North African furniture, ten thousand books, heavy tablecloths, flowers, paintings, toys, fruit — a rather beautiful disorder, I thought.
Heard Simone de Beauvoir talk on the novel is it still possible last night at the Sorbonne (with [the journalist Irv] Jaffe). She is lean and tense and blackhaired and very goodlooking for her age, but her voice is unpleasant, something about the high pitch + the nervous speed with which she talks. In the late afternoon read Carson McCullers’s
The ugliness of New York. But I do like it here, even like Commentary [to which she contributed]. In NY sensuality completely turns into sexuality — no objects for the senses to respond to, no beautiful river, houses, people. Awful smells of the street, and dirt.. . .Nothing except eating, if that, and the frenzy of the bed.
. . .
Adjusting the self to the city vs. making the city answer better to the self
March 12, 4:15 p.m.
I am in bad shape. I write it out here; I write slowly and I look at my handwriting which looks OK. Two vodka martinis with Marty Greenberg [editor at Commentary]. My head feels heavy.
I’m not pious, but co-pious.
The coming of the orgasm has changed my life. I am liberated, but that’s not the way to say it. More important: it has narrowed me, it has closed off possibilities, it has made the alternatives clear and sharp. I am no longer unlimited, i.e. nothing.
Sexuality is the paradigm. Before, my sexuality was horizontal, an infinite line capable of being infinitely subdivided. Now it is vertical; it is up and over, or nothing.
. . .
The orgasm focuses. I lust to write. The coming of the orgasm is not the salvation but, more, the birth of my ego. I cannot write until I find my ego. The only kind of writer I could be is the kind who exposes himself.. . .To write is to spend oneself, to gamble oneself. But up to now I have not even liked the sound of my own name. To write, I must love my name. The writer is in love with himself. . .and makes his books out of that meeting and that violence.
Nov. 20 (3 a.m.)
I have never been as demanding of anyone as I am of [the Cuban-American playwright Maria] I[rene Fornes]. I am jealous of everyone she sees, I hurt every minute she goes away from me. But not when I leave her, and know that she is here. My love wants to incorporate her totally, to eat her. My love is selfish.
. . .
Tonight she went from work to meet Inez at the San Remo. Ann Morrissett [journalist and playwright] was there. After, the Cedar Bar. She came home at 12:00; I was asleep.. . .She came to bed, told me about the conversations of the evening, at 2:00 asked that the light be put out, went to sleep. I was paralyzed, mute, swollen with tears. I smoked, she slept.
. . .
My desire to write is connected with my homosexuality. I need the identity as a weapon, to match the weapon that society has against me.
It doesn’t justify my homosexuality. But it would give me — I feel — a license.
I am just becoming aware of how guilty I feel being queer. With H., I thought it didn’t bother me, but I was lying to myself. I let other people (e.g. Annette [Michelson, film scholar]) believe that it was H. who was my vice, and that apart from her I wouldn’t be queer or at least not mainly so.
. . .
Being queer makes me feel more vulnerable.
Till now I have felt that the only persons I could know in depth, or really love, were duplicates or versions of my own wretched self. (My intellectual and sexual feelings have always been incestuous.) Now I know + love someone who is not like me — e.g. not a Jew, not a New York-type intellectual — without any failure of intimacy. I am always conscious of I’s foreignness, of the absence of a shared background — and I experience this as a great release.
Cogito ergo est
How many times have I told people that Pearl Kazin [editor] was a major girlfriend of Dylan Thomas? That
How many times have I reviled myself for that, which is only a little less offensive than my habit of name-dropping (how many times did I talk about
awake at 7
Museum at 10:30
I. arrives at 1coffee + lunch in Museum 3:00
4:30-5:15 coffee with I.; talk she comes with me in the cab to 118th St. pick up David [Rieff, Sontag’s 7-year-old son] drop I. at 79th St. — she is going to Alfred [Chester, author and literary critic] I feed D. + put him to bed A. calls to urge me to come to the party
I read the Listener — call Jack, Harriet — leave at 9:30
cab to 14th St. — I buy tickets for [film director Kenneth] Anger film and
Pirandello party — I leave — Times Sq.
Bardot movie — home at 4
awake at 7:00 — rage
call A. at 9:00
Jack picks us up at 9:15
breakfast at Rumpelmayer’s
walk in Central Park
Hotel Pierre with Jack + Ann + 2 friends (Jack and Harriet)
cab to Alfred’s
lunch with I. + A., at Bocce place
matinee off — I. and I go to the Commons
we return to Alfred’s at 6:45
I. calls Ann — we all go down, I. to Ann’s, A. + David + I to Frank’s Pizza.
. . .
we pick I. up at 8 on Hudson St. — go to films at
10:30 — cab home, put D. to bed — I. wants to eat — sex — no talk — sleep
. . .
I take Benzedrine at 5:00
cab to Wash. Sq. at 6:00 to meet A.
dinner at Frank’s
coffee after at Reggio’s
March 8 (noon)
Via benzedrine, the ever-seeping down impact of Irene, Dr. Puroshottam [Hindu scholar]
last week, this morning’s lectures on Spinoza’s ethics, the long meditation on Kant which began in October, yesterday’s idea of the difference between ‘the truth that’ and ‘the truth about.’
There is no stasis. To stand still is to fall away from the truth; the inner life dims and flickers, starts to go out, as soon as one tries to hold fast. It’s like trying to make this breath serve for the next one, or making today’s dinner do the work of next Wednesday’s as well.. . .Truth rides the arrow of time.
I must help I. to write. And if I write, too, it will stop this uselessness of just sitting and staring
at her and begging her to love me again.
. . .
It hurts then 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.
I SHOULDN’T TRY TO MAKE LOVE
WHEN I AM TIRED.
I SHOULD ALWAYS KNOW WHEN I AM
TIRED. BUT I DON’T.
I LIE TO MYSELF. I DON’T KNOW
MY TRUE FEELINGS.
Becoming aware of the ‘dead places’ of feeling — Talking without feeling anything. (This
is very different from my old self-revulsion at talking without knowing anything.)
The writer must be four people:
1) the nut, the obsédé
2) the moron
3) the stylist
4) the critic
1) supplies the material
2) lets it come out
3) is taste
4) is intelligence
a great writer has all 4 — but you can still be
a good writer with only 1) and 2); they’re most important.
9 Dec. 1961
The fear of becoming old is born of the recognition that one is not living now the life that one wishes. It is equivalent to a sense
of abusing the present.
Mary McCarthy’s grin — grey hair — low-fashion red + blue print suit. Clubwoman gossip. She is The Group. She’s nice to her husband.
. . .
I write to define myself — an act of self-creation — part of process of becoming — in a dialogue with myself, with writers I admire living and dead, with ideal readers
Because it gives me pleasure (an ‘activity’)
I’m not sure what purpose my work serves
Personal salvation — Rilke’s ‘Letters to a
Sept. 3, 1962
I am sitting on the grass by the river. David is play[ing] ball with a Puerto Rican boy and man.
Alone, alone, alone. A ventriloquist’s dummy without a ventriloquist. I have brain-fatigue and heart-ache. Where is peace, the center?
There are seven different kinds of grasses
where I am lying. Dandelions, squirrels, little yellow flowers.
. . .
I want to be able to be alone, to find it nourishing — not just a waiting.
Hippolyte says, blessed is the mind with something to occupy it other than its own dissatisfactions.
I dreamed of Nat[han] Glazer last night. He came to borrow a black dress of mine, a
very beautiful dress, for his girlfriend to wear at a party. I tried to help him find it. He lay
on a single bed + I sat beside him and stroked his face. His skin was white except for patches of black moss-like beard on his face. I asked
him how his face got so white, + told him he should get into the sun. I wanted him to
love me but he didn’t.
Sept. 12, 1962
Premature pliability, agreeableness
so that the underlying stubbornness is
accounts for 80% of my notorious flirtatiousness, seductiveness
Sentimentality. The inertia of the emotions. They are not light, buoyant. — I am sentimental. I cling to my emotional states.
Or do they cling to me?
July 27, 1964
Art = a way of getting in touch with one’s
My need to get rid of it, once hauled up.
A freshly typed manuscript, the moment it’s completed, begins to stink. It’s a dead body — it must be buried — embalmed, in print. I rush out to mail the mss. the moment it’s finished, even if it’s 4 a.m.
The greatest crime: to judge.
The greatest failing: lack of wholeheartedness.
[On a loose scrap of paper, probably from 1964]
I will be all right by 7:00 a.m. this morning.
. . .
M. [Mildred Jacobsen, Sontag’s mother]
didn’t answer when I was a child. The worst punishment — and the ultimate frustration.
She was always ‘off’ — even when she wasn’t angry. (The drinking a symptom of this.)
But I kept trying.
Now, the same with I. Even more agonizing because for four years she did answer. So I know she can.
. . .
— to censor [sic] others for my own vices*
— to make my friendships into love affairs
— to ask that love include (and exclude) all
*but, perhaps this becomes most hectic and obvious — reaches a climax, when the thing in myself is deteriorating, giving way, collapsing — like: my indignation at Susan [Taubes]’s and Eva [Kollisch]’s physical squeamishness
NB: my ostentatious appetite — real need —
to eat exotic and “disgusting” foods = a need to state my denial of squeamishness. A counter-statement.
Nov. 17, 1964
Where I detected envy, I forbore to criticize — lest my motives be impure, and my judgment less than impartial. I was benevolent. I was malicious only about strangers, people who were indifferent.
It seems noble.
But, thereby, I rescued my ‘superiors,’ those I admired, from my dislike — my aggression. Criticism was reserved only for those ‘beneath’ me, whom I didn’t respect.. . .I used my power of criticism to confirm the status quo.
. . .
all capital cities are more like each other than like the rest of the cities in their country (people in NY more like Paris than in
. . .
out words, lurching back + forth
[Not dated, probably 1964]
The intellectual ecstasy I have had access to since early childhood. But ecstasy is ecstasy.
Intellectual ‘wanting’ like sexual wanting.
. . .
6,085 copies of Against Interpretation have been sold
1,915 copies of the 1st printing are left.
. . .
recent painting (Pop, Op) — cool; least amount of texture possible — light colors
need to have canvas, because you can’t float colors off in space
. . .
feeling (sensation) of a
Pop Art is Beatle art
another key text: Ortega, ‘Dehumanization
every age has its representative age group — ours is youth — spirit of age is being cool, dehumanized, play, sensation, apolitical
Jasper Johns — Duchamp painted by Monet
My vision is unrefined, insensitive; this is the trouble I’m having with painting.
another project: Webern, Boulez, Stockhausen. Buy records, read, do some work. I’ve been very lazy.
To give no interviews until I can sound as clear + authoritative + direct as Lillian [Hellman] does in the Paris Review.
May 20, Edisto Beach [S.C.]
“the arrogant object” (Johns)
one doesn’t learn from experience — because the substance of things is always changing
there is no neutral surface — something is only neutral with respect to something else (an intention? An expectation?) — Robbe-Grillet
Rauschenberg’s use of newsprint, tires
Johns: broom, hanger
The only transformation that interests me is a total transformation — however minute. I want the encounter with a person or a work of art to change everything.
July 4, Bled [Yugoslavia]
Mailer: how to be pure and be a movie star
In every important modern American writer you feel a struggle with the language — it’s
your enemy, doesn’t naturally work for you. (Completely different in England, where
the language is taken for granted.) You have
to subdue it, reinvent it.
July 16, Paris
I haven’t learned to mobilize rage — (I perform militant actions, without militant feeling)
Sept. 17 (on plane to NY)
Sartre: “When people’s opinions are so different, how can they even go to a film together?”
Beauvoir: “To smile at opponents and friends alike is to abase one’s commitments to the status of mere opinions, and all intellectuals, whether of the Right or Left, to their common bourgeois condition.”
Through 2/3 of
I wanted to assimilate her, learn her gestures, feel as she felt) — then, toward the end,
I started to want her, to think of her sexually,
to want to possess her. Longing succeeded admiration — as the end of my seeing her drew near. The sequence of my homosexuality?
. . .
In NY, little or no “community” but a great sense of “scene.”
. . .
My biggest pleasure the last two years has
come from pop music (the Beatles, Dionne Warwick, the Supremes) + the music of Al Carmines [actor, composer, director, reverend]
In the next apt. I’ll have lots of plants, massed together.
. . .
A problem: the thinness of my writing —
it’s meager, sentence by sentence — too architectural, discursive
Mailer says he wants his writings to change
the consciousness of his time. So did DHL[awrence], obviously.
I don’t want mine to — at least not in terms of any particular point of view or vision or message which I’m trying to put across.
The texts are objects. I want them to affect readers — but in any number of possible ways. There is no one right way to experience what I’ve written.
I’m not “saying something.” I’m allowing “something” to have a voice, an independent existence (an existence independent of me).
Lillian [Hellman] identified with Becky Sharp — always wanted to be a bitch, to bait people.
I never got past admiring and envying her for being able to throw the dictionary back at the drippy schoolmistress. All that manipulative stuff with men was beyond me.
Analysis: two or three
I come each night around 2:00 or 3:00. The N.Y. Times is my lover.
[Not dated, late 1965]
The unpleasantness of the feedback — other people’s reactions to my work, admiring or adverse. I don’t want to react to that. I’m critical enough (+ I know better what’s wrong).
I like to feel dumb. That’s how I know there’s more in the world than me.
. . .
my intellectual formation:
b) P[artisan] R[eview] (Trilling, Rahv,
P & A via Schwab-Mckeon
d) Central European “sociology”
The German Jewish refugee intellectuals
Strauss, Arendt, Scholem, Marcuse, Gourevitch, [Jacob] Taubes, etc.
(Marx, Freud, Spengler, Nietzsche, Weber, Dilthey, Simmel, Mannheim, Adorno et etc.)
e) Harvard Wittgenstein
f) the French — Artaud, Barthes, Cioran, Sartre
g) more history of religion
h) I — Mailer, anti-intellectualism
i) Art, art-history
[William S.] Burroughs
end result: Franco-Jewish Cageian?
Jan. 4, 1966
The situation in painting is tight: like science. Everyone conscious of “problem,” what needs to be worked on. Each artist by his recent work issuing “white papers” on this or that problem, + the critics judging whether their chosen problems are interesting or trivial. (The Barbara Rose approach.) Thus Rosalind Krauss judges Jasper’s flashlight, ale cans, etc. to be the solution to/exploration of a peripheral (trivial) problem of sculpture now: what to do with
the pedestal.. . .While Frank Stella’s work is thought to be very interesting because it is a solution to central problems. W/o a knowledge of recent art-history + its “problems,” who
wd. be interested in Frank Stella?
Artists working hip to hip — very tight — everything changing each six months, as more “work” from the diff. academies comes in.
One has to keep up, have a very keen radar. (To be relevant, to be interesting.)
While in literature, everything is so loose textured. One could make a parachute jump blindfolded — anywhere you land, if you push it hard enough, you’re bound to find interesting unexplored valuable terrain. All the options are lying about, barely used.
. . .
Jasper is good for me. (But only for a while.)
He makes it feel natural + good + right to be crazy. And mute. To question everything. Because he is crazy.
. . .
The only thoughts I have that seem to
stay “true” are thoughts about thinking (and feeling) — their contours, methodology, dilemmas —
No thoughts about how things are ‘in the world’ (estimates of people, art, political ideas) stay persuasive for long. One look again at
that reality.. . !
. . .
making lists (+ checking off things known, recognized, seen or owned) on an already existent list: another version of “blessing”!
I take these things under my wing — I ‘include’ them.
[Not dated, late winter 1966]
NYC with its intelligentsia, its liberal consensus, is in relationship to the rest of USA like
. . .
Duchamp has said two contradictory things — (1) that a work of art has a (short) life-span and (2) that the value of a w-o-a can only be established by posterity.
One view: art is a language, not just what it is.
Is this the “conservative” view?
Ad Reinhardt’s “black” paintings are like Robbe-Grillet’s novels — an idea mapped on a grid. You “get it” too easily. That’s “romantic”
in one sense (romanticism as concentrating on a part rather than the whole).
. . .
Self-expression is the limiting idea, limiting if it’s central. (Art as self-expression is very limiting.) From self-expression one can never arrive at an authentic, a genuine, not merely expediential, justification for courtesy.
But if you start with courtesy, you can accommodate most of what people attribute
to self-expression (through idea of courtesy
. . .
Atmosphere at Merce’s lecture-demonstration: everything was important. Things handled evenly, with measure, with care. The rag he
wiped his sweat with. The stool he moved, then sat on at the back of the stage.
. . .
Jasp[er Johns]: “I don’t think a thing is anything” (i.e. any one thing) — So de Kooning was being simple-minded when he destroyed
a painting because X liked it. Maybe X didn’t like what de Kooning assumed he would encounter + wanted him to dislike. Maybe he liked something entirely different.
One of my strongest and most fully
employed emotions: contempt. Contempt
for others, contempt for myself.
. . .
I’m impatient (ð contemptuous) of people who don’t know how to protect themselves, stand up for themselves.
My mind = King Kong. Aggressive, tears people to pieces. I keep it locked up most of
the time — and bite my nails.
June 27, Paris
When the provos stage “happenings” at night in the streets of
Happenings in NY are not only apolitical.
They risk nothing. They are witty exercises in irrationality — entirely safe.
If only my novel could have the speed — and the range, the relevance — that Godard’s last two films have. The
Studied with Jane Heap (famous Little
Review lady from 20’s) living at end of her life in Hampstead; a pupil of Gurdjieff; her
. . .
like Caligari or magician in “Mario +
no one knows anything about his sex-life
was never a critic
has studied Yoga in
in his company, no one brings him his or
her personal problems
I’ve got the Novel. . . I think! Thanks
to Brook + Grotowski, the final pieces have
fallen into place.
Jap [Jasper Johns]; of a young painter’s work
he saw this afternoon. “The paintings are very beautiful. But that’s all.”
Jap’s authority, his elegance. He is never flustered, apologetic, guilty, ashamed. Perfect certitude. So, if he picks his nose or eats in
the Automat, he’s being elegant.
. . .
The only people who should interest themselves in an art (or several arts) are those who practice it — or have — or aspire to. The whole idea of
an “audience” is wrong. The artist’s audience is his peers.
[Not dated, late 1966]
Joe [Chaikin] asks me tonight how I feel when
I discover, say, three-fours through something I’m writing that it is mediocre, inferior. I reply that I feel good and plow on to the end. I’m discharging the mediocre in myself. (My excremental image of my writing.) It’s there.
I want to get rid of it. I can’t negate it by an act
of will. (Or can I?) I can only allow it its voice, get it “out.” Then I can do something else.
At least, I know I won’t need to do that again.
Feb. 22, 1967, 3 a.m.
I’m finishing the [“Story of] O” review which has turned into a 35-page essay. It’s OK. Still,
I don’t believe a word I’m saying.
It’s interesting, maybe valuable — but I don’t see how “true.”
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
The Great Society
The Only Alternative + his Other Possibilities
The Myddle Class+
The Mothers of Invention (LA?)
The Byrds (LA)
Country Joe + the Fish
The Quicksilver Messenger Service
Big Brother + the Holding Company
The Sparrows + the Charlatans
In Calif., a stranger is a [potential] friend until he proves otherwise; in NY, a stranger is an enemy until he proves otherwise. One uses up
a lot of energy in NY by that hypothesis.
. . .
The ideal life: doing only things which are indispensable.
Two ways to be — a saint or a thief.
My image of myself since age 3 or 4 — the genius-schmuck. I allow one to pay off the other. Develop relationships to satisfy principally one or the other.
. . .
Sartre (cf. “Les Mots”) the only other person
I know of who had this “certainty” of genius. Living already a posthumous life, even as a childhood. (The childhood of a famous man.)
A kind of
genius you know you’ll do when adult your tombstone. The most glorious tombstone possible.
Sartre was very ugly — and knew it. So he didn’t have to develop “the schmuck”
to pay off the others for being “the genius.” Nature had taken care of the problem for
him. He didn’t have to invent a cause of failure
or rejection by others. As I did, by making myself ‘stupid’ in personal relations. (For ‘stupid,’ also read ‘blind.’)