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The Short List: The Way We Live Now, Susan Sontag

Susan Sontag
Susan Sontag
Public Domain

The Short List is a collection of reviews and critical responses to short fiction. All titles reviewed are suggested for a quick, quality read. Was your New Year's Resolution to read more engaging literature? Start your search here.

The Way We Live Now, Susan Sontag

Susan Sontag’s story The Way We Live Now details the catastrophe of a promiscuous man falling ill with AIDS, and Sontag speaks through the muddy lens of hearsay which adds not only great characterization but a sense of the chaos and disorder that comes with an unexpected diagnosis of disease, and the fear of death and possibly of life as well: the irrevocable change that a disease or a death brings upon all people that can trace relationships back to the sick or diseased.

Sontag's use of characterization and story lens was frustrating at first, but I quickly found myself falling in line with the multidirectional sentences in all of their lengthy glory. Emotionally charged and discordant, each line simultaneously reinforced and released the tension. By skipping set dialogue, following a pattern closer to line of thought, and jumping seamlessly from one character’s head to another, Sontag blended the myriad of feeling and despair that comes with pending death. She captured the obtuse sense of amazement and intrigue we find when confronted with a dying soul; a sort of thing borne less out of care for that individual, and more out of our own fear of our own mortality. Sontag summed up the reality of death in an easy line: simplest because we all know it, we have all thought it, if not in as many words: We are learning how to die.

Ultimately, a challenging but rewarding read. Heart wrenching. A must. ~Sliante