Regarding Susan Sontag on HBO

December 8, 2014 3:02 PM

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Back in the day, Susan Sontag was the big anxiety of influence. Public intellectual, essayist, activist, provocateur, critic, and novelist, she was the giant thinker to topple for any woman. Few could claim her intellectual maternity. "I feel sorry for you," said one male professor to the women in his class, as if we were competing with her. One of a kind, she was revered; even the most arrogant of men took notice of a woman who occupied so vital a cultural role, one to which men aspired. How odd it feels to write these words in a time when women can achieve anything, and yet I cannot think of anyone of either gender whose commitment to philosophy and politics could match hers. Now HBO will air a documentary about Susan Sontag directed by Nancy Kates, illuminating a moment in American letters when the quality of one's mind was prized, admired and awarded.

Not a fashion plate, Sontag was easily identified by her big black mane with its grey-white streak. The documentary shows her in many archival photographs as it limns her career and relationships with sociologist Philip Reiff who she married at an early age after a two-day courtship, and with whom s...

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