SUSAN SONTAG • Jerome Boyd Maunsell
Paperback / 224 pages
Reaktion Books / 2014
“My idea of a writer: someone interested in ‘everything.’” This declaration by Susan Sontag (1933–2004) seemed to reflect her own life as an essayist, diarist, filmmaker, playwright, and novelist writing on a startling range of topics―from literature, dance, film, and painting to cancer, AIDS, and the ethics of war reportage. For many critics, her work captures the twentieth-century world better than almost any other. In this new biography, Jerome Boyd Maunsell draws on Sontag’s extensive diaries to offer a far more intimate portrait than ever before of her struggles in love, marriage, motherhood, and writing.
Exploring the astonishing scope of Sontag’s life and work, Maunsell traces her growth during her intellectual career at Chicago, Oxford, and the Sorbonne. He discusses her short-lived marriage to Philip Rieff at seventeen, the birth of her son, and her subsequent relationships with women. As Maunsell follows the extraordinary arc of her life, he delves into her literary life in New York in the 1960s; travels with her to Hanoi, Cuba, and China; and surveys her work in Sweden and France in the 1970s, where she turned to filmmaking. Maunsell concludes by examining her miraculous rebirth as a novelist and critic in the 1980s and ’90s after her diagnosis with cancer in the mid-1970s.
Providing a full picture of Sontag as a private person and public figure, this concise biography casts new light on this pivotal figure in literary and cultural history.
︎ Condition note: Very good