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December 28, 2004

Susan Sontag, 1933-2004

by Ron Hogan

sontag.jpgMargalit Fox writes the NYT obituary, which shows a bit more respect for its subject than their backhanded acknowledgment of Jacques Derrida while admitting that "over four decades, public response to Ms. Sontag remained irreconcilably divided."

"She was described, variously, as explosive, anticlimactic, original, trendy, iconoclastic, captivating, hollow, rhapsodic, na´ve, 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, passÚ, 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."

Interestingly enough, while ex-husband Philip Rieff rates a mention in the closing paragraphs, the name "Annie Leibovitz" doesn't show up at all. No, wait, I'm mistaken: "She was undoubtedly the only writer of her generation...to be photographed by Annie Leibovitz for an Absolut Vodka ad." So that's what the Times is calling it these days. Interesting.

(A reader dropped me a note to point out that the AP did see fit to mention Leibovitz as a "longtime companion," which strikes me as a fair appraisal of their history. Also worth noting: Christopher Hitchens' tribute in Slate.)

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