This is Susan Sontag’s long interview some close years after being diagnosed with cancer in the mid-1970s. The result of this diagnosis is the long essay “Illness as Metaphor” which dissects the concept of deeper interpretation and hidden meaning in illness, especially focusing on tuberculosis and cancer. This book came out before the AIDS epidemic and so feel lacking in that sense, but was later expanded and combined with writing about AIDS, something she spends time in her fiction with as well.
The interviewer here has packaged this book, gotten permission from David Rieff, Susan Sontag’s son, and published this full text edition of Susan Sontag’s famous Rolling Stones interview 45 years on (and 10 years after her death), and slapped his name on the spine as if he did the heavy lifting. This is an interesting interview in spite of, not because of the questions posed by the interviewer. It’s funny to see Sontag spending twelve hours in the presence of the Rolling Stone writer because she seems bored and annoyed at times with some of the facile connections he makes to pop culture she didn’t write about and makes passing references to the culture she did. The end experience is that I would read his questions in order to understand my bearings and then focus on her answers, which were good, if limited by the fact that she’s less good in interviews than in her writing, in part because of a kind of dilettantish knowledge base that she hints at in the interview itself.