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Susan Sontag

December 29th, 2004 · No Comments

Susan Sontag, 71, has succumbed to her long battles with cancer. Tim Rutten’s remembrance is a loving and clear minded testament her “uniquely American life.”

Meditating on her passing inspired me to search the archives of The New York Review of Books. One of her latest pieces there is her remarks on receiving the Jerusalem prize in 2001, “In Jerusalem,” which includes timely reminders on the importance of doing your homework, of thinking, and on doing the hard work of expressing the truth.

“The writer’s first job is not to have opinions but to tell the truth…and refuse to be an accomplice of lies or misinformation. Literature is the expression of nuance and contrariness against the voices of simplification. The job of the writer is to make it harder to believe the mental despoilers. The job of the writer is to help make us see the world as it is, which is to say, full of many different claims and parts and experiences.”

“Furnishing opinions, even correct opinions—whenever asked—cheapens what novelists and poets do best, which is to sponsor reflectiveness, to perceive complexity.”

Sontag’s response to 9/11 remains available from The New Yorker’s archives, along with other writer’s comments in the “Talk of the Town” column from the issue of 2001-09-24.

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