Sontag on "Camp" - Note 1
I was reading about Lisa Cohen's book All We Know: Three Lives, in a New York Times review by M. G. Lord, "More Notes on Camp" (October 5, 2012), when I was captivated by a partial quote from Susan Sontag on "camp," which she defined as:
"seeing the world as an aesthetic phenomenon."I knew of Sontag's essay "Notes on 'Camp,'" maybe had even read it in my callow youth as a young graduate student at UC Berkeley in Martin Jay's class, but I wanted to see the entire quote, so I stopped reading and looked up the 1964 essay, discovering that the quote was taken from her first note on camp:
"Camp is a certain mode of aestheticism. It is one way of seeing the world as an aesthetic phenomenon. That way, the way of Camp, is not in terms of beauty, but in terms of the degree of artifice, of stylization."I think that's brilliantly right. Sontag is almost always brilliant, and too often brilliantly wrong, but she's brilliantly right this time. I'm sure I must have read that line in my youth and failed to be dazzled. I now know more, both intellectually and practically, even something about art, so I've come to appreciate what I must once have missed. So much of art is now identical with what Sontag termed "camp," aesthetic not in terms of beauty, but of artifice and stylization. I mean that purely as an objective point.
Speaking of "camp," I awoke this morning from a rather 'campy' dream of people dressed (and partly undressed!) in extravagantly stylized manner, caught up in a complex artifice of interrelationships, and engaged in seducing, betraying, and disappointing one another in various artful ways. This dream of great complexity ended with Lillian Hellman complaining to me that her memoirs were missing because her best friend had stolen the just-finished manuscript she'd left unattended while going to the kitchen to brew a strong cup of coffee. I wanted to offer words of comfort, but all I could come up with echoed Mary McCarthy: "But your memoir is a lie! Every word you write is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'!" I didn't want to insult her to her face, however, since she's long dead, so I disincarnated myself from the mechanics of that complex plot by waking up instead.
My deus 'exit' machina . . .