Magazine November 11, 2019, Issue

Susan Sontag’s Lifelong Literary Pose

Susan Sontag in Rome, Italy, June 9, 2003 (Alessia Pierdomenico/Reuters)
Sontag: Her Life and Work, by Benjamin Moser (Ecco, 832 pp., $39.99)

As a books-besotted teenager in the 1990s, I spent many hours poring over the pages of The Writer’s Desk, a remarkable collection of Jill Krementz’s photographs of authors in their abodes. I remember making a mental distinction between the authors who appeared to be spontaneously at work — Katherine Anne Porter hunching over a marked-up manuscript page or George Plimpton pulling a page from a typewriter — and those who, seemingly reluctant to be caught in the act of writing, looked to be posing for Krementz.

Two portraits, in particular, struck me as pompously aloof: one of Joan Didion, who is

This article appears as “In Pursuit of the Literary Life” in the November 11, 2019, print edition of National Review.

Peter Tonguette — Mr. Tonguette is the author of Picturing Peter Bogdanovich: My Conversations with the New Hollywood Director.

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