Susan Sontag Essayist

Susan Sontag Essayist-13
“That’s how I know there’s more in the world than me.” Her fiction has meanwhile been in a state of readerly neglect.

“That’s how I know there’s more in the world than me.” Her fiction has meanwhile been in a state of readerly neglect.

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China was where her parents conceived her and where her father, a fur trader, died in 1939, when she was 6. Two days later she left her apartment again and killed herself, showing me that she didn’t mind doing something stupid.” It sounds cold at first, but the story’s last page resolves into something heartbreaking: “You’re the tears in things, I’m not.

There’s no separating the curiosities of the young Susan from the adult’s. Another diaristic piece, the title story, works as a collage of life in 1970s Manhattan, not unlike Renata Adler’s , and builds to the revelation of a friend’s suicide: “That late Wednesday afternoon I told Julia how stupid it would be if she committed suicide. You weep for me, I’ll weep for you.” Sontag’s 1986 story “The Way We Live Now” collects a chorus of voices speaking of their friends in intensive care units during the early days of the AIDS epidemic.

Merrill, aware that Mann is living in exile in Pacific Palisades, looks him up in the phone book and receives an invitation for the pair to come around on a Sunday afternoon for tea. The first shock is his “uncanny” resemblance to his own author photo.

“I’d never met anyone who didn’t affect being relaxed.

Sontag in private is playful, vulnerable, funny, impish, dishy, voracious, self-contradictory.

“I feel dumb,” she writes in 1965, already a novelist, tyro on the New York scene, and author of essays that are still required reading.

Her four novels split into two phases: a pair of experimental works of the ’60s ( the old antithesis of style versus content,” she wrote in 1965.) As Taylor writes in his foreword, Sontag “was an occasional rather than a habitual writer of short stories, turning to the form as certain expressive needs arose that couldn’t otherwise be satisfied.” In the form proves supremely flexible: memoir, diary, allegory, documentary, and even science fiction are all present.

Startlingly, the volume begins with a work that resembles straight autobiography.

“Baby” narrates the life of a baby-boomer child in the voices of parents consulting with a doctor in the course of daily visits that accelerate years at a time.

“Dummy” imagines a corporate stiff replacing himself with clones to escape “the problems of this one poor short life that was allotted me.” Any of these stories could fit neatly in anthology of the period.


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