- Category : Writers-Fiction
- Type : GE
- Profile : 6/2 - Role Model / Hermit
- Definition : Triple Split
- Incarnation Cross : LAX Obscuration 2
American award-winning writer of novels, essays, criticism.
A prolific writer, she is the author of 17 books including four novels, a book of short stories, many essays. Her books have been translated into 32 languages. She also wrote plays and occasionally tried her hand at directing them. During her career, she was the recipient of the National Book Critics' Circle Award, a National Book Award and a MacArthur "genius" grant
Some of her best-known books are the novels "Death Kit" (1967), "The Volcano Lover" (1992) and "In America" (2000) as well as her studies "On Photography" (1977) and "AIDS and Its Metaphors" (1989).
An attractive woman, with a mane of black hair that sported a distinguished white stripe in her later years, Sontag made a striking presence, and her fine intellect, outspoken public statements, liberal views, and cultural critiques kept her in the public eye throughout most of her adult life. She wasn't afraid to take on big questions, to examine what it meant to be human in the 20th century. Not camera-shy, she appeared in films by Woody Allen and Andy Warhol and posed for an Absolut Vodka ad.
But her real contributions were in her intellect and in her writing. "What Susan did was, she dealt as a literary and philosophical intellectual with the deep problems of human life in our times," Arthur Danto, the Johnsonian professor emeritus of philosophy at Columbia University and an art critic for The Nation, told reporters for the New York Times. "She was never a dispassionate or disinterested writer. She always used her own experience as a way of giving meaning to issues that had meaning for everybody."
Her detractors labeled her synthesis of cultural trends and her examination of ideas "unoriginal." For every favorable review of her work like "iconoclastic" and "captivating," there were equally opposing views like "abrasive" and "attention-seeking."
Her early life was not ideal. Her father Jack Rosenblatt was a fur trader in China and her mother, born Mildred Jacobson, often joined him there for long periods of time, leaving their daughters, Susan and Judith, with relatives.
In 1938, when Susan was only 5, her father died in China of tuberculosis. Susan suffered from asthma and her mother took the girls to Tucson and married a World War II veteran. The family then moved to Los Angeles.
Susan was a gifted student and, as she looked back on her high school years, remarked "My greatest dream was to grow up and come to New York and write for Partisan Review and be read by 5,000 people."
In 1964, she did just that with her article "Notes on Camp." But in the intervening years, at age 17, she had met sociologist Philip Rieff, age 28, and married him 10 days later, earned two degrees, studied at Oxford on fellowship, and had a child. After she completed her bachelor's degree in 1951, the newlyweds moved to Boston where she continued her studies, earning two master's degree from Harvard, the first in English in 1954 and the second in philosophy in 1955. The couple had a son in 1952, David Rieff, and then divorced after eight years of marriage in 1958.
Sontag worked up until her death. In 2003, she published her book, "Regarding the Pain of Others," a dissertation on war. The New York Times published one of her last essays about the torture of Iraqi prisoners by Americans on May 23, 2004. Sontag died in New York City on December 28, 2004 of complications from acute myelogenous leukemia, with which she had suffered for 30 years. She was two weeks' shy of her 72nd birthday.