Susan Sontag, my prose’s prime mover, ate the world. In 1963, on the subject of Sartre’s Saint Genet (her finest ideas occasionally hinged on gay men), she wrote, “Corresponding to the primitive rite of anthropophagy, the eating of human beings, is the philosophical rite of cosmophagy, the eating of the world.” Cosmophagic, Sontag gobbled up sensations, genres, concepts. She swallowed political and aesthetic movements. She devoured roles: diplomat, filmmaker, scourge, novelist, gadfly, essayist, night owl, bibliophile, cineaste . . . She tried to prove how much a human life—a writer’s life—could include. Like Walter Benjamin, she was entranced by multiplicity; and, like him, she was an aphorist at heart, honing pluralities down to terse sentences not without Jamesian evasions and excesses. Again, Sontag on Sartre’s Genet: “Jerking off the universe is perhaps what all philosophy, all abstract
Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.