Sontag’s 12-hour interview about her bout with cancer and attitudes towards death; the music of Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, and Patti Smith; the ideas of Nietzsche and Proust; the differences between New York and Los Angeles and much more.
Garage Museum of Contemporary Art and Ad Marginem Press present a Russian translation of Jonathan Cott's Susan Sontag. The Complete Rolling Stone Interview.
In 1978, Jonathan Cott, the founding editor of Rolling Stone magazine, best known for his conversations with Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Leonard Bernstein, interviewed Susan Sontag, first in Paris and then in New York. Only one third of their 12-hour talk was published in the October 4, 1979 issue of Rolling Stone. Three decades later, after Sontag's passing, Cott printed the full record of that lengthy interview as a book.
Jonathan Cott's questions are based on Sontag's three books released in the second half of the 1970s: the collections of essays On Photography and Illness as Metaphor, and the collection of short stories I, etcetera. In her answers to Cott, Sontag touches upon multiple themes, including her bout with cancer and attitudes towards death; the music of Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, and Patti Smith; the ideas of Nietzsche and Proust; and the differences between New York and Los Angeles. However, the main focus of the book is Sontag herself, for whom the process of cognition was crucial to experiencing the fullness of being. The opposition of the mind and the senses was always false in her opinion, as she shared Roland Barthes' “vision of the life of the mind as a life of desire, of full intelligence and pleasure.”
Sontag's personality is vividly present in the interview, including her faith in human culture and history (“I know that what we do and think is a historical creation”), her love of reading, her seriousness and passionate temper, her independence, and her lust for the truth: “[The] task of the writer, as I conceive of it for myself, is also to be in an aggressive and adversarial relationship to falsehoods of all kinds …and, once again, knowing perfectly well that this is an endless task, since you’re never going to end falsehood or false consciousness or systems of interpretation. …I think there should always be freelance people who, however quixotic it may be, are trying to lop off a couple of more heads, trying to destroy hallucination and falsehood and demagogy–and making things more complicated, because there’s an inevitable drift towards making things more simple.” These concluding words to the interview are as relevant today as they were back in 1978.