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Notes on Sontag: Out Novelist Allan Gurganus Pays Tribute to a Lost Genius

Article excerpt

Writer Susan Sontag died December 28 at age 71 after a long battle with cancer. She left behind an impressive body of fiction and criticism, including her seminal 1960s essays "Notes on Camp" and "Against Interpretation." She also left behind her former life partner, photographer" Annie Leibovitz, 55, and Sarah Cameron Leibovitz, the child they coparented from her birth in 2001 until the couple's 2003 breakup. While Sontag had recently acknowledged her relationships with women, she preferred to keep her private life private and never" spoke to the gay press. The Advocate asked Allan Gurganus to remember a fellow literary lion.

Susan Sontag's magisterial presence meant the success of any literary party, and her early exit from one always seemed a literary-critical judgment that could leave a hostess sobbing. Sontag's prose was rangy and venturesome, and her voice seemed intact from her very early publications when she was in her 20s. I especially liked some of her short stories in the first days of the AIDS pandemic.

Her own long fight with cancer gave her pitiless insights into illness and into the psychology of suffering and into the degree of blame all sick people are forced to bear. She had, as a talker, great force and the personal authority of someone whose opinions matter first of all to themselves and then to others. …