Thursday, December 30, 2004

Susan Sontag

The press has lots of excellent appreciations of Susan Sontag's life and works. I've placed links to many of them below. When I first learned of the death, I did searches of her name in weblogs (via Feedster) and in what we used to call usenet newsgroups (via Google Groups). The weblog search produced a mismash of stuff from personal blogs and the rss feeds of newspapers; nothing special. The Groups search was somthing else. Top hits at the time I did that search were a bunch of discussions among what seem to be British soccer hoodlums. A message from a participant in a Liverpool football discussion list mentioned her death with what passes for sympathy (I think) on that list. Others contributed to the discussion by abusing her. I don't think the abuse is surprising since they seem to abuse everything, but having some notion about her and expressing it to others, that's pretty interesting. The terminology is also interesting. Does anyone reading this know what a kopite is? Someone clueless, for sure, but more precisely?

Here's one excerpt from the stream; I inserted the asterisks, this group swears with gusto:

• Susan Sontag RIP
• Another kopite passes away. bwahahahahahaha.
• Are you for f**king real? Gobshite...
• Overrated and that grey streak was really annoying. -- -z-
• Yes, overrated, but that doesn't mean she wasn't good. ;)
• actually, I liked her.
• What the f**k is that all about?
• your laughin at someone passin away? FFS
• get out of here sick twat - Dec 28, 11:52 pm by zubov - 7 messages - 5 authors

The search in Google Groups also turned up brief discussions on the Red and Blue politics lists that showed rare agreement between the two. Two examples:

Susan Sontag dead. Did anyone drive a stake through her heart?
The bitch is dead.
alt.politics.democrats - Dec 28, 11:48 pm by Drake - 2 messages - 2 authors

Susan Sontag Dies 2
The execrable Susan Sontag died today at the age of 71 of an undisclosed illness.
Perhaps I should be more charitable in my assessment ...
alt.politics.bush - Dec 28, 10:58 pm by Emmanuel Esperada - 4 messages - 4 authors

The Sontag article in Wikipedia shows the strength of this source for coverage of current events. The same goes for its tsunami entry.

So far as press coverage goes, I particularly like Christopher Hitchins' appreciation in Slate: Susan Sontag; Remembering an intellectual hero. Hitchins, often a witty, sneering skeptic, is here frankly an admirer. Here's an excerpt:

When Slobodan Milosevic adopted full-out national socialism after 1989, it took real guts to go and live under the bombardment in Sarajevo and to help organize the Bosnian civic resistance. She did not do this as a "tourist," as sneering conservative bystanders like Hilton Kramer claimed. She spent real time there and endured genuine danger. I know, because I saw her in Bosnia and had felt faint-hearted long before she did.

Her fortitude was demonstrated to all who knew her, and it was often the cause of fortitude in others. She had a long running battle with successive tumors and sarcomas and was always in the front line for any daring new treatment. Her books on illness and fatalism, and her stout refusal to accept defeat, were an inspiration. So were the many anonymous hours and days she spent in encouraging and advising fellow sufferers. But best of all, I felt, was the moment when, as president of American PEN, she had to confront the Rushdie affair in 1989.

It's easy enough to see, now, that the offer of murder for cash, made by a depraved theocratic despot and directed at a novelist, was a warning of the Islamist intoxication that was to come. But at the time, many of the usual "signers" of petitions were distinctly shaky and nervous, as were the publishers and booksellers who felt themselves under threat and sought to back away. Susan Sontag mobilized a tremendous campaign of solidarity that dispelled all this masochism and capitulation. I remember her saying hotly of our persecuted and hidden friend: "You know, I think about Salman every second. It's as if he was a lover." I would have done anything for her at that moment, not that she asked or noticed.

Here are links to obits and appreciations, mostly taken from Arts & Letters Daily:

Susan Sontag, writer, critic, a “zealot of seriousness,” and “besotted aesthete,” as she described herself, is dead at 71...
NY Times ... Guardian ... AP ... London Times ... Wash Post ... Playbill... Telegraph... Houston Chron... LA Times... New Criterion... NPR (audio) ... Salon... SF Chron... 2nd LA Times... 2nd NY Times... Independent... Le Monde ... Slate... Boston Globe... 2nd Telegraph ... BBC

No comments: