On Sontag

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Sontag is the heart of the brains’ knowledge, or the brain of the heart’s knowledge. Having finished (with some skipped pages), Under the Sign of Saturn, I feel, with a form of genuineness, invigorated. Sontag begins with despair (Artaud) but leaves us with a point of gratitude (Canetti). We are taught madness and the self-perpetuating mind’s circle, but also that life is rich and tragedy can be refused.

I am interested by her use of alliteration. Fascinating Fascism, Approaching Artraud, Sign of Saturn… What is Sontag trying to tell? Or not tell? The alliteration brings almost a sense of commodity to her work. We are drawn, that is for certain.

I did not expect a collection of essays focused on others. Somehow it is always my expectation in our self-media age that the writing it of the self, the personal essay. Sontag does write about these artists with a keen sense of intimate lucidity… one where her voice and the other’s voice (which we know less of) blend to tell the narrative as it is, as it truly must be.

Fascism surprised me. The individual-level of fascism surprised me. “A preoccupation with situations of control…”

And finally, Walter Benjamin…

If style is the power to move freely in the length and breadth of linguistic thinking without falling into banality, it is attained chiefly by the cardiac strength of great thoughts, which drives the blood of language through the capillaries of syntax into the remotest limbs.

This book is, fully, deeply, even on the mere surface, a text on great thought. It honours great thought and critiques great thought. It commemorates the individual artist, in which the world is mirrored and refused.

Edit: everyone in my class hated Sign of Saturn. Something about pretentiousness, hyper intellectuality, transforming something ordinary into something so sophisticated we feel mocked.

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