Monday, January 03, 2005


The hordes of lit-bloggers and other demi-puppets lavishly eulogizing Susan Sontag are chaining themselves to a sinking literary establishment.

It's like the character handcuffed to a stateroom in the "Titanic" movie. Right now the ship is only listing in the water a bit. "I say!" a billionaire (attendee of the National Book Awards) remarks on the noticeable angle of the floating palace. "I rather wonder if this is something about which we might peremptorily be concerned?" Rick Moody, Jonathan Franzen and friends cluelessly play with pieces of ice on deck.

The angle of list becomes greater. Could it go down in a hurry, stray aristocrats wonder? One can be certain that when it does, they-- the elite-- will grab the available lifeboats, while the hordes of demi-puppets in steerage, others handcuffed to rooms in second-class, will go down with the ship.


nic chiarella said...

if you're bored, a tiny iceburg for sontag:

a year ago, while i was working on a paper about the relationships between photography and poetry, a professor at my school offered up one of his own works on the same matter. included on his list of references was susan sontag's "on photography" (and, of course, a roland barthes text--like any broken freezer, the moldy buns were for the spoiled meat).

always naive about advice, i excitedly went to the library for the sontag and barthes. three weeks later, i had turned the entire essay against barthes, and i couldn't even use the sontag because it was so garbled. but i thought "i'm no expert; i'm just a stupid undergrad. student who missed the point," so i decided to confer with my prof. but when i asked if he could correct any of my points, he squinted at me dubiously.
"oh, i doubt it," he said, "it's tough stuff."
kind of surprised, i replied, "well, didn't you have to read it to use it in *your* paper?"
at this he did his squinting thing again and laughed, and made a hasty admission. he'd never read either text, and just "picked the quotes up from some other book."

so, now that the revered, across-the-board aesthete/social critic is dead, i guess we might safely make one major hypothesis: anyone who likes susan sontag's writing probably never read more than a few lines of it. and considering she is praised for championing roland barthes' ideas, we might also suppose that even fewer people have read him. after all, the only time we can truly mourn the loss of writers is when they failed to accomplish anything worthy or memorable in the time they had. i'd say that sontag's corpus was pretty much always a corpse.

King said...

Thanks for the interesting story!