I told three friends, under the age of 40, I was going to see a documentary about Susan Sontag. The response was the same from all three: WHO? I would not say Susan Sontag was ever a household name, but for people of a certain age with literary/artsy interests, she was on our radar.
Sontag went to college at 15, married at 17, had a child at 24 and wrote 17 books. Of writing, she said, “Writing is a way of paying attention to the world.” I understand that sentiment completely. It’s pretty much the reason for writing this blog. Yesterday, MoMA premiered, Nancy Kate’s new documentary, Regarding Susan Sontag. Using only archival footage, Kates’ manages to put together a thoughtful, fast-moving, graphically and musically interesting movie about a woman, whose greatest art, was her own life.
“My idea of a writer is a person, who is interested in everything.” She tolerated 3 bouts of cancer, survived two against all medical advice, and was felled by the third. After the film, Nancy Kates was asked by a member of the audience, why she had made the film. Kates, “I felt a voice had gone out of the world that we really needed to hear.” I ‘ve tried to think about the takeaway from the film. The following struck me. At her 2003 commencement address at Vassar, Sontag said, “Don’t take shit. Tell the bastards off!”