Waggish

Susan Sontag

Daniel Green is thoughtfully compiling notes and obituaries of Susan Sontag, who died today at age 71. I knew much of Sontag’s writing by reputation more than through actually reading it, and I never did get far into The Volcano Lover, so I can’t offer the most informed thoughts on her. But I want to salute a few particular things.

Sontag’s death comes as more of a surprise than most because I thought of her as being at a fundamentally restless stage of her life, before the period of old age where writers settle down and start repeating themselves. When I was younger and discovering writers through remainders at The Strand and small press reissues, Sontag popped up all over the place. Wherever I went–E.M. Cioran, Alexander Kluge, Roberto Bolano, Imre Kertesz, Bela Tarr–Sontag had been there first, writing introductions or analyses. At the Japan Society’s retrospective of post-war Japanese film earlier this year, she had made the selections, and they were hardly common choices: these were movies and directors I’d never heard of, even after having followed Japanese film for several years. And her appreciation of Shohei Imamura was spot on.

I disagreed with many of her enthusiasms (Cioran, for one, and certainly Peter Nadas), but this is an almost inevitable consequence of the breadth of her tastes. At a time when specialization and depth take precedence over exploration, Sontag’s eclecticism is something we need more of.

Update: Also see Professor Nightspore’s just-right memories of Sontag:

It’s strange though how she feels central but unimportant to my own sense of self and intellectual world.

One Comment

  1. aslan
    21 March 2008

    Why are you not enthusiastic about Peter Nadas? I would have thought from your love of both Proust and of other Hungarian literature like Krasznahorkai that you would like him.

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