Sontag: Her Life

Joan Smith at Literary Review:

‘Many who encountered the actual woman were disappointed to discover a reality far short of the glorious myth,’ Moser writes in his introduction. ‘Disappointment with her, indeed, is a prominent theme in memoirs of Sontag, not to mention in her own private writings.’ It is a salutary warning to readers who have bought into the notion of the dazzling, supremely confident intellectual. Eight hundred exhausting pages later, Sontag emerges as one of those irredeemably unhappy people, endlessly lurching between narcissism and self-hatred, who leave a string of uncomprehending friends, relatives and lovers in their wake. She wasn’t even interested in personal hygiene or health, forgetting to wash, wearing the same clothes for days at a time, smoking heavily and gorging herself on food at other people’s expense. A friend once arrived late for dinner with her at Petrossian on 58th Street, only to find that Sontag had already gone home, leaving him with the bill for the ‘sumptuous, multi-course caviar dinner’ she had consumed.

So much for the gossip, but what about the writing? Moser’s book offers such a gripping account of a profoundly damaged human being, trapped in a cycle of repetition, that it would be easy to forget the fact that Sontag was a writer.

more here.

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