I love the careful refinement and precision of a good manuscript. But sometimes, when I’m not attending to submissions or screening essays for publication, I just want to lie back, relax, and read someone else’s diary.
“Why do we read a writer’s journal?” Susan Sontag asks in her 1962 essay, “The Artist as Exemplary Sufferer.” Is it, she continues, “because it illuminates his books? Often it does not.”
More likely, Sontag says, we read a writer’s journal “simply because of the rawness of the journal form, even when it is written with an eye to future publication. Here we read the writer in the first person; we encounter the ego behind the masks of ego in an author’s works. No degree of intimacy in a novel can supply this.”
In a recent review of Sontag’s published journals, Rachel Luban suggests that Sontag always expected the eventual publication of her own notebooks and wrote in anticipation of being read. Luban says, “Given [Sontag’s] ambitions, she must have hoped they might one day reach a wider audience. Reading them, we are always looking at Sontag looking at us looking at her.” Read more…