I should admit that I am already a little suspect of Susan Sontag’s nonfiction at time, something I will explain more in reviews on her essays and notebooks (if I get around to these), but I am deeply suspect of her fiction for ways that make a lot more sense to me as a reader.
This is an odds and sods collection of short stories by Sontag who wrote four novels in 30 years, winning the National Book Award in 1999 for her novel In America. The collection itself is primarily made up of the stories from I, Etcetera and read like a collection of mostly experimental texts and would-be personal essays told in fragments and thought clouds, and then include a few companion pieces published with her best fiction in the collection “The Way We Live Now” that takes into account the ways in which a fatal immune disorder (yes, that one) affects the artistic output of a writer and their day to day interactions with the disease. It’s the best because it’s the most human.
The opening story, Pilgrimage, is also quite good, about a young teenage girl’s first forays into the life of the mind and her trip with a friend to see a famous writer she first adores. As a testament to precocious youth and the ways in which everything is so so serious for the young it’s wonderful. From the perspective of someone who thinks that Susan Sontag’s writing never let go of the attitudes that accompany precociousness, it’s curious, but still illuminating. The rest of the collection unfortunately doesn’t do too much.