Sontag started writing fiction while she was still teaching at Sarah Lawrence College and City University of New York and Columbia University from 1960-1964. In 1964-1965 Susan Sontag held a writing scholarship from Rutgers University. It was about this time that she decided it was time to begin a writing career.
Her first novel was an experimental one called The Benefactor published in 1963. She published Death Kit in 1967. Her short story "The Way We Live Now" published in the New Yorker in 1986 was the piece that brought her critical acclaim. In 1992 she again had success with her novel The Volcano Lover. Her final work of fiction entitled In America was published when she was 67 years old.
Non Fiction writing
Sontag produced nonfiction work which brought her critical acclaim. However, she still saw herself as a writer of fiction. Sontag wrote about popular culture a lot. She also wrote on photography among other things.
Sontag is also remembered as an activist. “During 1989 Sontag was the President of PEN American Center, the main U.S. branch of the International PEN writers' organization. After Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa death sentence against writer Salman Rushdie for blasphemy after the publication of his novel The Satanic Verses that year, Sontag's uncompromising support of Rushdie was critical in rallying American writers to his cause.”
Her sharp criticism.
Sontag is quoted as saying, The white race is the cancer of human history." According to journalist Mark M. Goldblatt, Sontag later recanted this statement, saying that "it slandered cancer patients"
Camille Paglia criticized Susan Sontag by saying, Sontag's cool exile was a disaster for the American women's movement. Only a woman of her prestige could have performed the necessary critique and debunking of the first instant-canon feminist screeds, such as those of Kate Millett or Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, whose middlebrow mediocrity crippled women's studies from the start. No patriarchal villains held Sontag back; her failures are her own.
She was criticized for her take on the events in Sarajevo and her remarks on fascism and her approach to the 911 attacks on the US stating that the terrorists were not cowards but retaliated against the US superpower.
Susan Sontag was by-sexual and she had known it from the time she was 15 years old. Newsweek published an article about Susan Sontag after her death in 2004, the article referred to her romantic relationship with photographer Annie Leibovitz.
Out magazine quotes from Sontag, "I grew up in a time when the modus operandi was the 'open secret'. I'm used to that, and quite OK with it. Intellectually, I know why I haven't spoken more about my sexuality, but I do wonder if I haven't repressed something there to my detriment. Maybe I could have given comfort to some people if I had dealt with the subject of my private sexuality more, but it's never been my prime mission to give comfort, unless somebody's in drastic need. I'd rather give pleasure, or shake things up."
The Guardian posted her obituary as follows: “Susan Sontag, the "Dark Lady" of American intellectual life for over four decades, has died of cancer. She was 71.”
Awards and honors
1978: National Book Critics Circle Award for On Photography
1990: MacArthur Fellowship
1992: Malaparte Prize, Italy
1999: Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France
2000: National Book Award for In America
2001: Jerusalem Prize, awarded every two years to a writer whose work explores the freedom of the individual in society.
2002: George Polk Award, for Cultural Criticism for "Looking at War," in The New Yorker
2004: Two days after her death, Muhidin Hamamdzic, the mayor of Sarajevo announced the city would name a street after her, calling her an "author and a humanist who actively participated in the creation of the history of Sarajevo and Bosnia." Theatre Square outside the National Theatre was promptly proposed to be renamed Susan Sontag Theatre Square It took 5 years, however, for that tribute to become official. On January 13, 2010, the city of Sarajevo posted a plate with a new street name for Theater Square: Theater Square of Susan Sontag.