May 3, 2005

Sontag son begins process of collecting mom . . .

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A revealing portrait of David Rieff appears in the New York Observer in an article by Suzy Hansen. Rieff, author of acclaimed books on Bosnia and the human rights movement, is the son of the late Susan Sontag and the sociologist Philip Rieff. Rieff says life at home as a young boy was marked by his parents’ wildly different political beliefs: “My mother was a leftist, my father was to the right of Attila the Hun.” Philip Rieff, who was interviewed for the story, noted upon reflection: “I think that what I wanted was a large family and what she wanted was a large library,” referring to Sontag’s notorious 15,000 volume collection, which was sold to the library at UCLA. Rieff plans to edit his mother’s journals and letters for publication and contribute an introduction to the volume. While Rieff plans to be fairly impersonal about the project (“I don’t understand why anyone wants strangers to read about one’s reflections about one’s family.”), he is not planning on limiting what others write about Sontag. “I don’t want to be Stephen Joyce or the Beckett estate… I’m not going to try to stop them. People will write what want to they write. I think my mother’s work will endure…”

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives

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