Susan Sontag Essayist

Susan Sontag Essayist-7
Without bylines, you wouldn’t necessarily peg them to Susan Sontag, but you can hear their echoes all around today, in the fiction of Lydia Davis and Lynne Tillman and Deb Olin Unferth, and they’ll keep ringing as long there are those for whom received forms and straitened ways of being a writer are never enough.Rolling Stone writer and author Jonathan Cott recounts his relationship with essayist and political activist Susan Sontag, and how their friendship lead to a memorable 1979 ' Rolling Stone' interview.“That’s how I know there’s more in the world than me.” Her fiction has meanwhile been in a state of readerly neglect.

Without bylines, you wouldn’t necessarily peg them to Susan Sontag, but you can hear their echoes all around today, in the fiction of Lydia Davis and Lynne Tillman and Deb Olin Unferth, and they’ll keep ringing as long there are those for whom received forms and straitened ways of being a writer are never enough.Rolling Stone writer and author Jonathan Cott recounts his relationship with essayist and political activist Susan Sontag, and how their friendship lead to a memorable 1979 ' Rolling Stone' interview.

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“Pilgrimage,” as Sontag admitted in her 1994 interview with the , is a lightly fictionalized account of her teenage encounter with Thomas Mann. The narrator (we might as well call her Susan) and her friend Merrill are both sophomores in Southern California in the late 1940s, though at different high schools.

They drive in cars, attend classical-music concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, and read the same novels.

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.

Susan is overcome by embarrassment, wants to be alone in the first private library she’s ever seen, afraid that she’ll eat too many cookies, ashamed when he turns the conversation to the students that he couldn’t conceive of how far away their education was from his “at the Gymnasium in his native Lübeck.” The writer in person is inevitably disappointing: “I wouldn’t have minded if he talked like a book. What I was obscurely starting to mind was that (as I couldn’t have put it back then) he talked like a book review.” A self-portrait of the teenager as budding intellectual precedes the account of meeting Mann, and it’s as magical as you’d expect: “a demon reader from earliest childhood,” thief of books, pretend conductor of her classical records.

A different sort of magic animates “Project for a Trip to China”: This is the Sontag we now recognize from her diaries, sparkling fragments that see the middle-aged intellectual (she was turning 40 when she visited China) communing in a gnomic way with her childhood self.

He’s alive, Stephen said.” This is the critic stepping into the fiction with the best sort of intervention.

Several stories in partake of the currents of experimental fiction that were going strong in the 1960s and ’70s.

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