For a long time I’ve been intrigued by Susan Sontag’s personal life. I’m entranced by her boldness and her seemingly endless desire for knowledge and romantic love. After watching the HBO documentary, Regarding Susan Sontag, I ordered her notebooks and also started reading the endless testimonies by her admirers, friends, and critics. Steve Wasserman’s essay, “Susan Sontag: Critic and Crusader,” struck me deeply, because it brought to light some of Sontag’s many complexities. Here’s an excerpt (the entire piece is on the Los Angeles Review of Books website):
She was always hungry for more. All her life she aspired to live up to Goethe’s injunction that ‘you must know everything.’ She wanted, as Wayne Koestenbaum has astutely observed, to devour the world. There were never enough hours in the day or the night. She stole from sleep the hours she spent reading and rereading, reading and rereading. She was an insomniac omnivore, insatiable, driven, endlessly curious, obsessed collector of enthusiasms and passions.
Another rich and fascinating piece is Lisa Levy’s “Cogito Ergo Boom: Susan Sontag’s Journals.” Levy discusses Sontag’s intellectual passions and her complicated relationship with women, with whom she often replayed the relationship dynamic she had developed with her mother. Levy quotes Sontag as saying: “What I have to get over: the idea that the value of love rises as the self dwindles.”