Friday, October 9, 2009

Remembering Susan Sontag

This is an entry about reading and coincidence and love and how much a person-a person I have never met in real life-can mean to me. It is written on 10/9 and edited today, on 10/19.

I have been reading Susan Sontag's collection of essays and speeches, At the Same Time, on and off lately. It is her last work.
By chance, I have also come to read a few dozens of pages of David Rieff's Swimming in a Sea of Death: A Son's Memoir, a painfully introspective and intimate account recording, from not only an admirer but a son's perspective, Sontag's last years until she departs for a better world on December 28th, 2004.

On a fine October day, when I was still in Seattle with Piper, I lingered, as I ususally do, in UW's boookstore, rummaging the shelves for surprises and bargain books. And I happened to pick up a book by Nadine Gordimer, a collection of her latest short stories. The story entitled as "Dreaming of the Dead" caught my attention immediately, and it turned out to be a dream about Gordimer having lunch with her deceased friends. Among the jovial and intellectual company of Edward Said and Anthony Sampson was, surprisingly, Susan Sontag.

Gordimer's description of Sontag's "deep beautiful voice", her "larger than life" presence-almost like "a mythical goddess, Athena-Medea statue"-is so poetic and evocative. It made me miss Sontag so so much that I went to the other corner of the bookstore just to get a look, a touch of her essays and novels, as if in so doing I could feel her, feel her constant presence-as if, having had to accept her mortality as a human being, I could somehow be consoled by the immortality of her words and the imperishability of her spirits......

Well, maybe I am being too sentimental here...... But, if you have seen how Julie Powell is obsessed with Julia Child and how Julie believes Julia is there with her when she cooks all the recipes in Julia's book, you will understand. Trust me, you will understand.