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New York magazine on Susan Sontag:


The most thrilling stretch of Reborn is its beginning, where we get a sustained look at a heretofore entirely mythical creature: the teenage Susan Sontag. As a grown-up, Sontag was so relentlessly, categorically adult that the very notion of a “teenage Sontag” (I imagine her eating sno-cones, lip-synching into a hairbrush, giggling) threatens to tear open some kind of existential wormhole, like a “male Gloria Steinem.” And yet here she is, at 15, a steaming vat of molten adolescence—possibly the most eloquently self-dramatizing teen of all time. She stays up all night reading André Gide (“Gide and I have attained such perfect intellectual communion,” she writes, “that I experience the appropriate labor pains for every thought he gives birth to!”), uses the word aye unironically, and nearly wears the needle off her turntable playing Mozart records. She compiles epic lists for self-improvement: books to read, difficult vocabulary, central beliefs (“the only difference between human beings is intelligence”). She strains mightily against the philistinism of middle-class life with her mother and stepfather: “Wasted the evening with Nat. He gave me a driving lesson and then I accompanied him and pretended to enjoy a Technicolor blood-and-thunder movie.” When she gets to Berkeley she reads poetry aloud and walks around with friends speaking “brilliantly” (her description) about “everything from Bach cantatas to Mann’s Faustus to pragmatism to hyperbolic functions to the Cal Labor School to Einstein’s theory of curved space.” (More...)

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