Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.

Buy Used
$8.94
FREE Shipping on orders over $25.
Condition: Used: Very Good
Comment: Slight wear on edges and covers; otherwise item is in very good condition. Eligible for FREE Super Saving Shipping! Fast Amazon shipping plus a hassle free return policy mean your satisfaction is guaranteed! Tracking number provided with every order.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag Hardcover – March 30, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

See all 4 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Price
New from Used from
Kindle
"Please retry"
Hardcover
"Please retry"
$5.12 $0.01

Must-read biographies
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
click to open popover

Editorial Reviews

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.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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
NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

Image
Interested in the Audiobook Edition?
If you’re the author, publisher, or rights holder of this book, let ACX help you produce the audiobook.Learn more.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 140 pages
  • Publisher: Atlas; 1St Edition edition (March 30, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935633228
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935633228
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,342,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael J. Ettner on March 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover
There is a hell of a lot going on in novelist Sigrid Nunez' slim memoir of her brief but intense association with the writer and public intellectual, Susan Sontag. Nunez has a long-simmering agenda to get through -- and a volatile mix of objectives to achieve. That she somehow pulls this off, and in such short order, is a testament to her talents as a writer.

Consider that Nunez has chosen a risky, non-linear presentation of her material. She depends on the power of "the telling detail" to maintain focus, drive momentum, and recreate a strong character. However scattershot this approach may seem to you at first, the fact is Nunez' cache of details is so huge that the reader's interest is unlikely to flag.

We learn that Sontag always read with a pencil in hand (never a pen), as she was an inveterate underliner and annotator. Around food she did not hide her voracious appetite. She wore men's cologne (Dior Homme). A city lover, she had zero appreciation for nature (she had never heard of a dragonfly). At the cinema she habitually sat in the first row. Among her favorite words: servile, boring, exemplary, serious, grotesque. Her credo: "Security over freedom is a deplorable choice." Nunez notes with approval that Sontag possessed "the habits and the aura of a student." The book is chock-full of anecdotes of New York literary life, of luminaries who settle into Sontag's orbit: Joseph Brodsky, Donald Barthelme, Elizabeth Hardwick, Jean Genet. Sontag's love life gets full exposure. Nunez recalls her lament: "Mean, smart men and silly women seem to be my fate."

Consider, too, how Nunez pulls a switcheroo in the final third of the book. Up to that point Nunez has posed as a wallflower in awe of her high-maintenance mentor. But suddenly Nunez ditches magnanimity.
Read more ›
4 Comments 33 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are few books that literally I couldn't put down. This was one.

A warts and all portrait of one of the most brilliant, polarizing personalities in the second half of the 20th Century, it gives you a remarkable sense of what she was like to be around, if little sense of her accomplishments. This book reminded me of Boswell's Life of Johnson, with a "you are there" immediacy, without having to worry if you are accomplished enough to be in the presence of this Great Woman. Nunez's ambivalent memories of Sontag are beautifully presented: she damns with faint praise and praises with faint damns alternatively.

I recall seeing Sontag introduce a reading by WG Sebald at Barnes and Nobles on Union Square, and seeing her at a screening of a film when the Public Theater still showed them and wondering what it would have been like to converse with her. This book gives one of the fullest and seemingly truthful pictures of what that experience would have been like.

The most vituperative reviews of this book have come from mostly male reviewers who clearly continue to have an issue with Sontag and what they see as her unearned fame, while they, blighted souls, are relegated to the dustbin of history. (Check out the Washington Post review for one). However, if you want to know why reading Sontag is worth your time, check out the Library of America's recent volume of her best work (neglecting, unfortunately, REGARDING THE PAIN OF OTHERS). Then you will understand why this fascinating portrait is so riveting.
Comment 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
The very name of Susan Sontag carries a lot of baggage for a lot of people, but Sigrid Nunez, who knew Sontag up close and personal, is remarkably balanced (no vicious pay-backs) in relating what she saw, heard and took away as lessons and memory. The portrait that Nunez paints is vivid, funny, startling and refreshing. I, like so many who may come to this book, had opinions about the careerist Sontag, her writing and her self-aggrandizing tactics, but I was disarmed and charmed by the personal Susan (who was always striving, always passionate, often extremely irritating). I never expected, for example, to see Susan laughing and to discover her favorite jokes (hilarious). And to find out that she and I revere Donald Barthelme, Italo Calvino and Julio Cortazar for the same reasons. She's not so bad, after all, is she? Nunez's writing is perfect here.
Comment 4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a long time fan of Susan Sontag, I was eager to read this memoir by novelist Sigrid Nunez. Beautifully written, the memoir evokes a complicated woman, not always likable but at all times fascinating. Nunez dated Sontag's son and lived with the two of them. Not only is Sontag the writer and the woman wonderfully portrayed, the depiction of New York City is also outstanding and very realistic.

I loved this book even though it was somewhat disillusioning for me. However, the work stands on its own merits and the woman is not easily dismissed.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
To be honest, I picked up this book, SEMPRE SUSAN, not because I'm a fan of Sontag, but because I'd read a Sigrid Nunez book which had very much impressed me, a novel called For Rouenna: A Novel. When I found this slim volume, purportedly about Sontag, I hoped to learn more about Nunez. And I did, because this IS a memoir after all. It gives you a pretty good look at what Nunez was like, fresh out of college, at the beginning of her career as a writer, working glorified 'go-fer' jobs at The New York Review of Books, where, quite coincidentally, Sontag had some important connections. So in this way, she first met Susan Sontag, taking a temporary job with her, answering her mail and typing. The two became quite close, despite an 18 year age difference, and Nunez even moved in with Sontag, and had an extended affair with the writer's son, David Rieff. In between the parts about Sontag and family, I learned of some of Nunez's other important influences and teachers, people like Elizabeth Hardwick, and a little about her own ups and downs in relationships. There are also a number of important names from the world of books, publishing, theater and the arts sprinkled throughout - all Sontag contacts.

But mostly, the book really is about Sontag, whose work, I must confess, I know very little about (but neither did Nunez when they first met; she quickly rectified this). Sontag herself was obviously a very complicated, and of course immensely talented, person. For many years she was recognized as an expert and authority on modern culture, a hard-won recognition, it seems.
Read more ›
Comment 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Recent Customer Reviews