Sunday, January 02, 2005


Hitchens on Sontag...Perfect As Ususal

Susan Sontag - Remembering an intellectual heroine. By Christopher Hitchens: "A man is not on his oath, said Samuel Johnson, when he gives a funeral oration. One ought to try and contest the underlying assumption here, which condescendingly excuses those who write nil nisi bonum of the dead. Could Susan Sontag be irritating, or hectoring, or righteous? She most certainly could. She said and did her own share of foolish things during the 1960s, later retracting her notorious remark about the white 'race' being a 'cancer' by saying that it slandered cancer patients. In what I thought was an astonishing lapse, she attempted to diagnose the assault of Sept. 11, 2001, as the one thing it most obviously was not: 'a consequence of specific [sic] American alliances and actions.' Even the word 'general' would have been worse in that sentence, but she had to know better. She said that she didn't read reviews of her work, when she obviously did. It could sometimes be very difficult to tell her anything or to have her admit that there was something she didn't know or hadn't read. "

These are the parts of obits so often forgotten and so truly important. The shady side of our character is what makes us real. When I was young, a boy I went to high school with died. In his eulogy, the minister who clearly did not know Johnny bellowed that this was a boy who would never do such things as smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol. Uhh, he was a country boy, and he was into those and more. Sadly, for the integrity of the moment, all of us kids got a hearty laugh. It has stayed with me since, however, that to tell the tale of a person without sharing their failings to is fail to tell the tale.

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