Ten Susan Sontag Quotes Ranked By How Badly They Make Me Feel Like I Need to Lie Down

Dear readers, I have recently become enamored of the works of Susan Sontag, best known for her illuminating essays, such as Against Interpretation, On Photography, and Notes on ‘Camp’ — which is, delightfully, being turned into the theme for next year’s Met Gala. I have been making my way through the first volume of her journals, Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1963. Susan was a genius, evident from the way her journals at age 15 read — she read Les Mis when she was nine!! — and her prose is just astounding. While I’d highly recommend you read them for yourself, I am so struck by many of her statements that I feel if I don’t talk about them I may die from how much she has called me out. To rank them, I have decided to use a scale of how much I feel like that one meme of Tiffany Pollard lying down; see below.

10. “Through the mask of my behavior, I do not protect my raw genuine self- I overcome it.”

How Much Do I Want to Lie Down? 1 of 5 Tiffany Pollards lying down.

UGH, wow. The construction of self is the protection of self? Wow. Not lying down yet, but I am a bit dizzy.

9. “I live my life as a spectacle for myself, for my own edification. I live my life but I don’t live in it.”

How Much Do I Want to Lie Down? 1 of 5 Tiffany Pollards lying down.

This one is particularly special to me, being a person highly invested in spectacle. I am often known to stick random shit on my face (stickers, googly eyes, marker, etc.) for no reason. I love this idea, that we are performing for ourselves, just purely for our own entertainment. I love the bombastic, the insane, the outrageous, and I delight in it. Thanks, Susan.

8. “There is nothing, nothing that stops me from doing anything except myself… What is to prevent me from just picking up and taking off?? Just the self-enforced pressures of my environment, but which have always seemed so omnipotent that I never dared to contemplate a violation of them… But actually, what stops me?”

How Much Do I Want to Lie Down? 2 of 5 Tiffany Pollards lying down.

I had a similar moment along with Susan here, when I was around 11, watching an acapella performance. I cannot express how much it felt like I was hit with a truck when I realized, that at any moment, I could just straight up run onstage and punch these sweet young college students who had come to perform for us. However, this realization still gets me now, because sometimes the urge to get on a train and never come back is very strong. This quote is even better because years later, Susan did just that — she left her husband and child to go be a bohemian writer in Paris. What a life!

7.  “I want to be able to be alone, to find it nourishing – not just a waiting.”

How Much Do I Want to Lie Down? 3 of 5 Tiffany Pollards lying down.

I… I need to take a sec with this one. Ugh, Susan! So do I! I want to appreciate myself enough to be able to be alone! I am so, so, tired of hating my own company…

6. “It is useless for me to record only the satisfying parts of my existence (There are too few of them anyway!) Let me note all the sickening waste of today, that I shall not be easy with myself and compromise my tomorrows.”

How Much Do I Want to Lie Down? 3 of 5 Tiffany Pollards lying down.

This makes me want to lie down quickly, evaluate all the time I have spent lying on my bed feeling like shit, then promptly drink 3 shots of espresso and do everything I want to do in life. I will not compromise my tomorrows!!! How did Susan write this when she was fifteen?!

5. “It hurts 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.”

How Much Do I Want to Lie Down? 4 of 5 Tiffany Pollards lying down.

Oh, my god. Lay me down to rest, baby. I don’t know if I’ve been in love yet, but I do know that feeling of telling someone you like them and your stomach feeling like it may just decide to jump off the Empire State Building without your permission. To be vulnerable, man. Also, I feel like it’s necessary to note, if we’re talking love, that Susan was gay as fuck.

4. “…it’s so effortless to let my loneliness defeat me, make me mold myself to whatever would (in some way—but not wholly) relieve it. I am infinite—I must never forget it…”

How Much Do I Want to Lie Down? 5 of 5 Tiffany Pollards lying down.

This makes me want to release a guttural scream, and hold myself for a long, long, time, until I remember that I am infinite.

3. “I know the truth now – I know how good and right it is to love- I have, in some part, been given permission to live –

Everything begins from now – I am reborn.”

How Much Do I Want to Lie Down? 5 of 5 Tiffany Pollards lying down.

So, some context: this was written when Susan Sontag was 16, after she began an affair with a fellow student at UC Berkeley, just as she started to get into the San Francisco gay scene. In the preceding entries, she talks a lot about how stifled she feels living at home, and god, do I feel that. I want to be given permission to live, Susan!! I want to know the truth!! EeeeeAAAAAAAA

2. “I know what I want to do with my life, all of this being so simple, but so difficult for me in the past to know. I want to sleep with many people—I want to live and hate to die…I don’t intend to let my intellect dominate me, and the last thing I want to do is worship knowledge or people who have knowledge!

I intend to do everything … to have one way of evaluating experience—does it cause me pleasure or pain, and I shall be very careful about rejecting the painful—I shall anticipate pleasure everywhere and find it, too for it is everywhere! I shall involve myself wholly… everything matters! The only thing I resign is the power to resign, to retreat: the acceptance of sameness and intellect. I am alive… I am beautiful…what else is there?”

How Much Do I Want to Lie Down? 5 of 5 Tiffany Pollards lying down.

Dear readers, I will be perfectly honest with you here — after reading this, I fell into an introspective haze, considering how long I have pursued intellectualism and neglected my needs as a human being, in some odd way of trying to compromise my situation. I mean, god, how long have I pursued trying to be a genius, like Sontag? How long have I privileged my mind over my body, and how long has it caused me existential pain? Just, god… ugh…. I am gone…

1.“In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could do to any person; I create myself.”

How Much Do I Want to Lie Down? 5 of five Tiffany Pollards lying down, plus that one picture of those cats:

SUUUUUUUUUUSAN. YOUR MIND. my writing voice has disintegrated in response to this sentence. I mean, what do you say to that. I create myself. I CREATE MYSELF. I am now going to lie down on the floor, listen to Carrie & Lowell on vinyl, and reevaluate my damn life.

One thought on “Ten Susan Sontag Quotes Ranked By How Badly They Make Me Feel Like I Need to Lie Down

  1. Sophie says:

    Yooo this is an excellent compilation! gosh doesn’t everything she write make you wanna prostrate yourself on the floor at her feet in envy/ worship…. she’s so RIGHT. ugh. Even her unedited teenage diary entries, not originally intended for publication – eg omg I never knew she was 15 when she wrote #6 ??!! – are so incredible. I MUST scream. Anyways I was about to suggest this quote: [“That was the year, my twenty-eighth, when I was discovering that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and every procrastination, every mistake, every word, all of it.“] because it fills me with utter existential panic every time and I am always spurred to action in a paranoid way feeling like I’ve wasted my life . Oof .but then I was googling it to get the wording right and I realised it was a Joan Didion quote all along ?! Mind blown. so idk why it’s usedul for me to leave it here but idk. Their minds. Legends recognising legends etc! Jesus Christ I sound unhinged sorry for the ramble. Godspeed & have a nice day! Xo


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