by carl wilson

The Death of Irony: Susan Sontag, RIP


Susan Sontag is dead at 71. She succumbed this morning to complications of acute myelogenous leukemia.

Sontag never wrote about music, so far as I know, but her essays about film, literature, politics, fashion, illness and sexuality (among many other subjects) should matter to anyone who reads or practices criticism, and few of us could ever hope to copy the jib she cut doing it. (Imagine being born into a world where there had been no Notes on Camp, and having to be the one to explain it!) She was often wrong - and she was often the one to correct herself.

One of my colleagues, hearing the news, immediately said, "She was a bitch," then laughed self-consciously. (This was a woman, who'd met Sontag.) I was annoyed by the superficiality and disrespect but it was typical of the reactions she provoked. Her obit in the Times includes this paragraph: "Over four decades, public response to Ms. Sontag remained irreconcilably divided. She was described, variously, as explosive, anticlimactic, original, trendy, iconoclastic, captivating, hollow, rhapsodic, naïve, sophisticated, approachable, abrasive, aloof, attention-seeking, charming, condescending, populist, puritanical, sybaritic, sincere, posturing, ascetic, voluptuary, right-wing, left-wing, mannered, formidable, brilliant, profound, superficial, ardent, bloodless, dogmatic, challenging, ambivalent, accessible, lofty, erudite, lucid, inscrutable, solipsistic, intellectual, visceral, reasoned, pretentious, portentous, maddening, lyrical, abstract, narrative, acerbic, opportunistic, chilly, effusive, careerist, sober, gimmicky, relevant, passé, facile, illogical, ambivalent, polemical, didactic, tenacious, slippery, celebratory, banal, untenable, doctrinaire, ecstatic, melancholic, humorous, humorless, deadpan, rhapsodic, aloof, glib, cantankerous and clever. No one ever called her dull."

Now that's the way to have them talk about you when you're gone.

But this should be said too: The very model of the responsible public intellectual, Ms. Sontag would no doubt appreciate donations being made in her name (or anyone else's) for Asian earthquake/tsunami relief. She would also, I suspect, point out that as horrific and dramatic as this natural disaster is, the ongoing manmade disaster in Darfur has killed more people while the world watches, hands folded. Remember her by demanding more talk and more action, as well as humanitarian aid.

News | Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, December 28 at 02:45 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (1)



yes, it's crazy-making to think of which *body count* counts. The tally in the recent war in the Congo (currently threatening to re-ignite) is still climbing, now over 3.8 million. It may be the most under-reported war story of our times.

Posted by kat on December 28, 2004 05:42 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson