From Publishers Weekly
The iconoclasm of the fearless intellectual Susan Sontag, who died in 2004 of leukemia, began to be revealed with her son David Rieff's memoir, Swimming in a Sea of Death, and continues with novelist Nunez's (Salvation City) thorny remembrance of the woman who was her literary mentor as well as her boyfriend's mother. Sontag was 43, Nunez 25, when the young editorial assistant at the New York Review of Books was hired by the famous writer to help her sort her correspondence at her Riverside Drive apartment in 1976. As a fledgling writer, between college and grad school, Nunez was in awe of Sontag's reputation, her mighty pronouncements, unconventional flair for life, and her critical reading and movie lists; the young writer promptly read her books (knowing Sontag would ask her if she had: "She didn't have a beautiful style," Nunez concludes). Soon Nunez was introduced to Sontag's son, David Rieff, who was a year younger and a student; they began a romance, sanctioned by Sontag, and Nunez moved into the apartment with them, in an increasingly problematic arrangement. What emerges from this conflicted portrait is a vulnerable woman recovering from illness who could not be alone; Sontag was supercilious, insecure, yet vulnerable to beauty and love, fiercely uncompromising, and surely, as Nunez intimates by the end, the finest teacher a young writer could ever have had. (Apr.)
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When Susan Sontag, 43, needed help catching up with correspondence in the wake of a radical mastectomy in 1976, friends suggested Nunez, then a 25-year-old writer wannabe, now an acclaimed novelist. Sontag was avid about sharing her knowledge, enthusiasms, and even her adored son, David Rieff, with Nunez, who ended up moving in. Now, six years after Sontag�s death, Nunez chronicles those heady and unnerving times in a boldly intimate, stingingly frank, and genuinely fascinating memoir. She portrays ever-controversial Sontag as an insatiable reader and moviegoer susceptible to love, a restless yet didactic intellectual who loathed solitude and who had to force herself to write in Dexedrine-fueled marathon sessions, and a clingy single mother. In short, an overwhelming presence for private and restrained Nunez. Sontag averred that getting to know famous writers can be disappointing, but there is nothing diminishing about this up-close-and-personal account of one interlude in Sontag�s remarkable life of blazing literary accomplishment, activism, and valor. And Nunez herself is intriguing. Readers of this thorny remembrance will hope that Nunez tells her own story next time. --Donna Seaman