Gap Between Ideas of Susan Sontag and Adrienne Rich

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Interesting essay by journalist Michelle Dean in the New Republic, here. An excerpt:

I learned as I suspected that the gap between Rich and Sontag was not so very wide as it looked. In Sontag’s archive at the University of California, Los Angeles, there is a letter from Rich . . . .She cited mutual acquaintances and a love of Marie Curie. To this, Sontag eagerly replied that she, too, would like to meet when Rich was next in New York. Suddenly, in those two letters, the image of Rich as a polemical firebrand falls right through the floor.

I do not know if the two ever met in the end. I do know that eventually Rich came to see herself as engaged in a project analogous to Sontag’s, at least in terms of its intellectual seriousness. In the preface to Arts of the Possible, Rich quoted Sontag’s complaint that the serious had become “quaint” and “ ‘unrealistic,’ to most people.” In fact, Rich, too, had become dissatisfied with feminism as it existed by the end of her life. She disliked the sudden rise of personal essays, “true confessions” as she called them. She felt that this displaced a feminism actively opposed to capitalism or racism or colonialism.

Perhaps this explains why Rich left such strict instructions against a biographer digging into her life. She simply, and admirably, did not want her personal life to overshadow the things she believed in.

A good read.

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