“I hate throwing up. You are totally alone when you throw up.”
–Alan Ball *
When I think “New York Intellectual,” I think “Susan Sontag.” Or I think of Woody Allen making fun of people like Susan Sontag. And then I think of a lot of other things which I won’t list here.
Sontag emerged from a literary scene at the University of Chicago and entered a literary scene in New York City. She was always part of a scene, wherever she was. Because she made the scene. That helps.
Sontag was published by the most prestigious literary press of her time. The rumor was that she slept with her publisher. She went both ways, which also helps. She battled cancer and eventually lost. She wrote about that. She wrote about photography.
She wrote essays and novels. But she wanted to be known for her novels. Everyone does, and I don’t know why. That’s changing, of course. Novels not being what they once were. Nothing being what it once was.
As far as I know, Sontag never wrote an analytical discourse on the TV show “Good Times.” Though I am sure she saw it. At least once.
She did this thing, quite radical, creative, and inventive, when her hair turned white. This might be the statement for which she is most famous. She dyed only some of her hair black, and left a long lock of white at the front.
I am sure Sontag would not want me focusing on her hair.
The thing is, I can focus on whatever I want.
I choose hair.
Hair is pretty disgusting, when you really think about it.
You can wash it, but is it every really clean?
And does it stay clean? Not for long.
You have to wash it again, and soon, if you care about clean.
Hair is dead, too. But it pretends to be alive.
Ever look at the hair on the floor of a barber shop?
It makes you want to throw up. That hair is done pretending.
* from his play, “Five Women Wearing A Dress,” c. 1993.
**video of Robert Motherwell’s painting Spanish Republic #57 by Khan Academy
***audio is from “Good Times:” aired on CBS from 1974 to 1979.