Things I Like / Things I Dislike

Susan Sontag’s diaries reveal a witty fondness for the humble list as a way of conferring value and exploring the realms of her knowledge. Her lists of likes and dislikes have become justly notorious. Here, acclaimed writer, critic and poet Seán Hewitt picks up that baton for issue 30

Photography Stuart Simpson / Penguin Random House


Night-scented stock / Going for a run in the rain / A badinage of insults / Embroidered clothing / Dipping into the cool shade of an old church on a hot day / Wildflowers / Superstitions / Medieval architecture / Rewilding / Idealists / Gargoyles / Snowfall / Inappropriate jokes / The way Bessie Smith delivers an innuendo / A cutting remark / Grandfather clocks / Excessive swearing / The fiendishness of magpies, the way they hop / The sound of my own voice (my boyfriend told me to write that) / My boyfriend (my boyfriend told me to write that) / Hearing birdsong on the way home from a nightclub / The scent of barley that comes from the Guinness brewery / Millie Jackson / Singers so bad you can pick them out in the choir / A Manhattan / Iced vermouth with a slice of orange / Weeds / Unexpected reminders of the dead / Pets who are given forenames and surnames, e.g. a cat named Josiah Wedgwood / People who have unprofitable hobbies / Whistling in an empty house / Echoes / Fresh bedsheets / The harmonies of The Watersons / The gorgeous misery of a late Thomas Hardy novel / Allotments / A high-waisted trouser / Prosody / Art heists / The smell of peat / A run-down pub / Aquariums / Frozen spider-webs / Ruins / Effeminacy / Sarcasm / Scousers / Drunkenly telling women they are beautiful in the smoking area / Everyone being beautiful when you’re drunk / Shirley Collins / The saying ‘There but for the grace of God go I’ / Trade unions / ‘An Endless Sky of Honey’ / The quiet clunk of a record needle finding the groove / Being left to my own devices / Dissent / Graveyards / A pair of heavy boots / The Victorian sensation novel / The sound of my grandmother singing / Suddenly recalling a line from a book / A good autumn / Freckled shoulders / Mythologies / When a child first remembers your face / Pointedly saying ‘You’re welcome’ to people when they don’t say thank you to me / Greenhouses / Cheeseboards / Hearing an owl / The smell of your hair after a bonfire /  A perfect row of houses / Sash windows / When old people lose all sense of propriety / When people recite Middle English poetry with the ‘authentic’ accent / Double denim / Growing plants from seed / Ambient rain / Rehearsing arguments in the shower / The beautiful dissonance of an orchestra tuning up / The sound of spoken Irish / The steamy exhalation of an iron when you stand it upright / The Phoenix Park / Changing my mind / The variety of English accents / Peshwari naans / Writing a strongly worded letter / The “ll” sound in Welsh / Internal rhymes / Good thighs / The sound of the word ‘thigh’ / Likewise, its spelling / Boyishness / Migration / Lyricism / A well-structured speech / The smell of hawthorn blossom / Evening light



Artificial flowers / Authority / The idea of work as a virtue / Targeted advertising / Siri / Electronic devices that speak to you / Piety / Pesticides / The Conservative Party / Likewise, Fine Gael / Homelessness / Greed / The smugness of rich men / Stigma / Overhead lighting / The difficulty of remembering a loved one’s face / Likewise, their voice / Dust / Hayfever / Images of medical procedures / Being made aware of the fact that I have internal organs / Seats with no leg room / Disrespect / Classism / Institutional power hierarchies / Standardised grammar mistaken for intelligence / Likewise, RP / The private school system / WhatsApp / Carbon emissions / Complacency / Bad buskers / Borders / Straight couples who take up the whole of the pavement / When people announce their charitable donations / Cowardice / Privatisation / People who fetishise the rules / Jobsworths / The words ‘relevant’ and ‘relatable’ used as praise / Cliques / The extinction of species / Blood sports / Trespass laws / Inherited wealth passed off as talent / Nationalism / Legalese / Pub quizzes that don’t specifically cater to my own limited area of expertise / Socialists whose friendship groups consist entirely of rich, privately schooled people / Nepotism / London-centrism / The smell of hospitals / The overuse of the word ‘problematic’ / Likewise, ‘radical’ / The guilt that comes with grieving / The word ‘gift’ used as a verb / Pervasive transphobia / Americanisms used by non-Americans / Clothing with brand names on / Likewise, being used as an advertisement / Small dressing rooms / Having to take off my shoes to try on a new pair of trousers / Hangnails / That I rarely enjoy going to the theatre as much as I enjoy the idea of going to the theatre / Books printed with new covers to tie in with the film version / Pizza (sue me) / Spinelessness / The combination of sweet and savoury in one dish, i.e. bacon and maple syrup / Art used as a display of wealth / Self-righteousness / Exploitation / ‘Creative’ used as a noun, as in ‘a team of creatives’ / Hold music / My own tendency towards apathy / The celebration of imperialism / Imperialism itself / Tight socks / Shrinking clothes in the wash / Accidentally grating a portion of my finger and/or fingernail when cooking / The idea of producing ‘content’ / That I hardly ever cry anymore / When people ask what my writing is about / Paraphrasing literature / Also, how pompous that sounds / Ignorance deployed as humour / Servility / Competition / Having the rules of a card game explained to me / Littering / Lawnmowers / The institution of the five-day working week / Alarms

This article is taken from Port issue 30. To continue reading, buy the issue or subscribe here