M Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction are some of my Literary Interests

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Monday, January 23, 2012

"The Way We Live Now" by Susan Sontag

"The Way We Live Now" by Susan Sontag (1986, 24 pages)

I recently purchased a great collection of short stories all set in New York City, Wonderful Town:  New York Stories from the New Yorker.    There are stories by lots of new to be writers, some authors I have read before, and some I am familiar with but have not yet read.   Among the short stories in the collection is Susan Sontag's (1933 to 2004-USA) very well know short story about the start of the aids epidemic in the Gay community in New York City.   Sontag was born in New York City and is thought of as a New York City intellectual ready to challenge the establishment whenever it seemed like the thing to do to her.   She has written a few works of fiction, a well known book on photography, lots of diverse essays but I think she is best known and will mostly be remembered for her landmark essay "Notes on Camp" (1964).  I spoke a bit about "Notes on Camp" in my post on Alfred Jarry in which I pondered whether or not Ubo Roi should be classified as camp.   In addition too "Notes on Camp" which even though it is almost 50 years old now (yikes) still needs to be read by anyone trying to understand the artistic and literary sensibilities of the 20th and 21th century.  


"The Way We Live Now" opens with a successful New York City man finding out he has the "new disease", the word aids is never used in the story.   We do not learn what he does but we do know he goes to conferences in places like Helsinki.   There is a very elitist quality to this story.  One of the characters even says it is a shame this disease will strike down so many men would have the potential to make valuable contributions to the arts and sciences.    The lead character has lots of friends in the gay community.   Nobody really quite understands the disease yet but people keeping saying a cure has to be right around the corner.   There is debate over whether or not women can get it.    One of the characters says his biggest regret is he will no longer be able to have completely uninhibited sex.  One of the emotionally hardest aspects of the disease is that it can lay dormant for years so when it does become serious many people have no idea from whom they might have contracted it.   Sontag does a great job of letting us see the huge wave of fear that was over taking the New York City gay community.  The disease both built feelings of community through a joint fear and destroyed it as you might never know who might be a carrier.   


(Note on page lengths-my page lengths are estimates-I am reading a kindle edition so the page count may be higher than than in a print book-I do wish all kindle editions had page numbers in edition to percent completed.)


"The Way We Live Now" is a very well done story that lets us see first hand an important part of New York City history.   


Please share your experience with Susan Sontag?


Is "Notes on Camp" still important?


Was Sontag a bit of a poser and attention seeker given to theatrical remarks like "MozartPascalBoolean algebraShakespeareparliamentary governmentbaroque churchesNewton, the emancipation of women, KantBalanchine ballets, et al. don't redeem what this particular civilization has wrought upon the world. The white race is the cancer of human history".




Mel u
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2 comments:

Parrish Lantern said...

Is this Kindle edition on your computer? Because some Kindle books on the device itself, come with page numbers, if you press menu whilst on a page at the bottom of that page it will say something like page 7 of 114 . Location 176 of 2924. I think that sometimes in a male dominated arena she felt she had to shout louder to get heard.

mel u said...

Parrish Lantern-my kindle program is on my ipad where I do most of my reading now-once and a while you will see pages and sometimes there is a message at the bottom of the screen saying no add ons are available for this book-I will experiment a bit