Meeting Sontag

No, I’m not sure if I’ll like her work. In fact, there is a good chance I won’t. She called herself a “militant feminist but not a feminist militant.” I’ll have to ferret out just how much militancy I’ll be able to stomach. And of course, she wrote “On Photography,” which is simply a nail in the “have to get to know her” coffin, since I am also a professional photographer. Rarely does one wax philosophical about photography like she did in that work.

But now, after watching Regarding Susan Sontag, I feel compelled to get to know her better as a writer. It’s a sickness, I think. I fantasize that studying her life – one in a long wish list of writers whose lives I’d like to study – will give me some insight into what made her the writer she was, and then magically provide some glimmer into my own wellspring. I’m not the only aspiring writer who thinks this way. In fact, I think it is the herald characteristic of writers in general.

Sontag said in a radio interview, “writers are interested in all things.” With that, I entirely agree. So, with hot tea in hand, I add her to the list of people whose lives I might find somewhat helpful in navigating my own creative psychoses. Perhaps you laugh at the use of the word psychoses, but for anyone who has obsessively searched for that ephemeral thread that, when caught, can be spun into something more, it is the right word.

“She discovered the brilliance of talent, rather than the brilliance of intellect.” Stephen Koch said of Sontag’s relationship with Irene Fornes. That is the infinite search. How ironic that the brilliance of intellect recognizes the absence of the brilliance of talent. It is surely what makes us the brooding, cranky creatures we can frequently be.

Who’s on your list?