In spring 2004, Susan Sontag was diagnosed with the incurable blood cancer which would kill her later the same year. In this fiercely honest and beautifully written memoir, her son David Rieff chronicles the last months of Sontag's life. Sontag had fought off two previous bouts of cancer, against all the odds, and had developed a sense of herself ...
In spring 2004, Susan Sontag was diagnosed with the incurable blood cancer which would kill her later the same year. In this fiercely honest and beautifully written memoir, her son David Rieff chronicles the last months of Sontag's life. Sontag had fought off two previous bouts of cancer, against all the odds, and had developed a sense of herself as somehow charmed, able to beat this disease. She also had a huge appetite for experience, and a wild, extravagant desire to live. Rieff details her reaction to the diagnosis, and the way that her friends and doctors responded to her shock and grief.He writes movingly about being by her side during that last year and at her death, and about his own contradictory emotions: his guilt both for not consoling her enough, and for somehow colluding with her in her belief that she could beat the disease. Drawing on Sontag's journals and letters, which Rieff read after her death, and on the writings about death of other great thinkers, "Swimming in a Sea of Death" provides a vivid portrait of Sontag in the last year of her life and a haunting meditation on mortality.
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Publishers Weekly, 2007-10-29 At age 70, Susan Sontag was diagnosed with a virulent form of blood cancer, her third bout with cancer over the course of 30 years and one she would not win. Her son, journalist Rieff (At the Point of a Gun), accompanied her through her final illness and death, and offers an extraordinarily open, moving account of the trial and journey. Sontag's "avidity" for life had prompted her to beat the advanced breast cancer that devastated her in 1975; she now resolved to fight the statistical odds of dying from myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), despite the pessimistic prognosis from doctors. Rieff, who admits he was not close to his mother over the preceding decade, is silenced by Sontag's refusal to reconcile herself to dying and unable to console her. Both mother and son are by turns angered by doctors' infantilizing treatment of terminally ill patients and by their squelching of hope. Anxious, chronically unhappy and obsessed with gathering information about her disease, Sontag was unable to be alone, and Rieff becomes one in a circle of devotees who rotate staying with her at her New York City apartment. A doctor is found who does not believe her case is hopeless, and in Seattle she undergoes a bone-marrow transplant. In this sea of death, Sontag took her son with her-conflicted, wracked, but wrenchingly candid, Rieff attempts to swim out. (Jan.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
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