I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Triumph of the Will

Triumph of the Will

Kevin Power
Sontag: Her Life, by Benjamin Moser, Allen Lane, 816 pp, £30, ISBN: 978-0241003480 Was she a terrible person? Consider: to her partner of fifteen years, the photographer Annie Leibovitz, she was like “an abusive mother” (this is according to Joan Acocella, who profiled her for The New Yorker in 2000). “People couldn’t bear to be at dinner when she was with Annie because she was so sadistic, so insulting, so cruel.” She explained to friends that Leibovitz “would be the stupidest person” they had ever met. When Leibovitz served her son David shrimp at a Christmas party, she began to shout. “David is allergic to shellfish! How could you be so stupid?” Leibovitz rushed out to buy a replacement appetiser. During these years, according to her accountant, Leibovitz gave her cash gifts totalling somewhere in the region of eight million dollars – to help support her writing. To her son, she could be shockingly indifferent. “I must think about David,” she admonished herself in a journal entry in 1971, when he was nineteen years old. A decade later, when David was undergoing dual traumas (the breakup of his relationship with the writer Sigrid Nunez, and the surgical removal of a precancerous growth from his spine), she flew to Italy with her partner, the dancer Lucinda Childs. David recuperated in the house of the writer Jamaica Kincaid and her husband. “It was just unbelievable that she went,” Kincaid said. “We couldn’t believe she was really getting on that plane.” Later, Kincaid would remark of her that she “wanted to be a good mother in the way one might want to be a great actress”.When David developed a cocaine addiction, his mother told friends that she found it “unforgivable” (although she herself regularly took amphetamines to help with her long stints at the typewriter). When she wasn’t being indifferent, she could be stiflingly attentive. When David was a child, she groomed him to become her intellectual equal, leading him through “a University of Chicago-like great books curriculum”. At four, David was reading Homer. A friend once asked him what he was up to. “I’m writing a novel about the Spanish Civil War,” he replied. The friend asked him if he had read Hugh Thomas’s thousand-page book on the subject. “Of course,” he replied. He was eleven years old. Later, she got him a job at her publisher, Farrar Straus & Giroux, and insisted that…

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