Sempre Susan

Sempre Susan

A Memoir of Susan Sontag

Format
Paperback
Price
$16.00
 
Additional Formats
  • Paperback
  • ISBN 9781594633348
  • 128 Pages
  • Riverhead
  • Adult

Overview

A poignant, intimate memoir of one of America’s most esteemed and fascinating cultural figures, and a deeply felt tribute.

Sigrid Nunez was an aspiring writer when she first met Susan Sontag, already a legendary figure known for her polemical essays, blinding intelligence, and edgy personal style. Sontag introduced Nunez to her son, the writer David Rieff, and the two began dating. Soon Nunez moved into the apartment that Rieff and Sontag shared. As Sontag told Nunez, “Who says we have to live like everyone else?”

Sontag’s influence on Nunez, who went on to become a successful novelist, would be profound. Described by Nunez as “a natural mentor” who saw educating others as both a moral obligation and a source of endless pleasure, Sontag inevitably infected those around her with her many cultural and intellectual passions. In this poignant, intimate memoir, Nunez speaks of her gratitude for having had, as an early model, “someone who held such an exalted, unironic view of the writer’s vocation.”

Published more than six years after Sontag’s death, Sempre Susan is a startlingly truthful portrait of this outsized personality, who made being an intellectual a glamorous occupation.

Praise

“Nunez, an uncompromising talent in her own right, offers the most vibrant and multifaceted portrait of Sontag to date.” —Vogue

“Sontag once wrote about feeling estranged from the ‘Susan Sontag’ who stood on the spine of the books she had written. In Nunez’s Sempre Susan, the gap between the writer and the person who wrote the books is made all the more vividly real—a reminder of the extraordinary transformative work that goes into writing in the first place.” —Slate??

“Nunez’s book is an elegy for a great woman and the company she kept, the vanished salon where she was the center.” —The New York Observer

“Sontag once wrote about feeling estranged from the ‘Susan Sontag’ who stood on the spine of the books she had written. In Nunez’s Sempre Susan, the gap between the writer and the person who wrote the books is made all the more vividly real—a reminder of the extraordinary transformative work that goes into writing in the first place.”—Slate

“Nunez, an uncompromising talent in her own right, offers the most vibrant and multifaceted portrait of Sontag to date.”—Vogue

“Graceful, respectful and achingly honest.”—Kirkus

“Nunez has constructed a eulogy that mythologizes and humanizes one of the most intimidating figures of contemporary culture.”—The Boston Globe

“Nunez’s book is an elegy for a great woman and the company she kept, the vanished salon where she was the center.”—The New York Observer

“ ‘Looking back,’ Nunez writes, ‘I only wish that I could feel more joy—or, at least, that I could find a way of remembering that is not so painful.’ For the reader, if not for herself, she has.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“The iconoclasm of the fearless intellectual Susan Sontag . . . continues with novelist Nunez’s thorny remembrance of the woman who was her literary mentor as well as her boyfriend’s mother. . . . What emerges from this conflicted portrait is a vulnerable woman recovering from illness who could not be alone; Sontag was supercilious, insecure, yet vulnerable to beauty and love, fiercely uncompromising, and surely, as Nunez intimates by the end, the finest teacher a young writer could ever have had.”—Publishers Weekly

“When Susan Sontag, 43, needed help catching up with correspondence in the wake of a radical mastectomy in 1976, friends suggested Nunez, then a 25-year-old writer wannabe, now an acclaimed novelist. Sontag was avid about sharing her knowledge, enthusiasms, and even her adored son, David Rieff, with Nunez, who ended up moving in. Now, six years after Sontag’s death, Nunez chronicles those heady and unnerving times in a boldly intimate, stingingly frank, and genuinely fascinating memoir. . . . Sontag averred that getting to know famous writers can be disappointing, but there is nothing diminishing about this up-close-and-personal account of one interlude in Sontag’s remarkable life of blazing literary accomplishment, activism, and valor. And Nunez herself is intriguing. Readers of this thorny remembrance will hope that Nunez tells her own story next time.”—Booklist

“Sigrid Nunez’s intimate portrayal of Susan Sontag will fascinate both ardent Sontag fans and those who have never read her work. This memoir is at once a window into the writing life in general, an examination of the complexities of one artist in particular, and a tribute to the lost intellectual New York City of the 1970s. Remarkably, it’s as honest as it is affectionate and as sad as it is charming.”—Curtis Sittenfeld

“Sempre Susan is written with quiet authority, flashes of poetry, and a steady accumulation of startling, precise details, some apocryphal (Sontag didn’t know what a dragonfly was? drank blood as a child?), until by the end Sontag the Myth comes to life. What is amazing about this wonderful book is that by the end we know as much about Nunez as we do about Sontag, by the very focus of her attention, by her perception of the myth, by her compassionate interpretation.”—Nick Flynn

“This detailed, nuanced account of the more private side of a complex, contradictory public figure is told with even-handed good humor and more than a little compassion. Utterly absorbing.”—Lydia Davis

“The best thing written about Sontag.”—Edmund White


 

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