Susan Sontag was one of the few intellectuals with whom Americans have ever been on a first-name basis. It wasn’t intimacy that gave her this status; it was that like Marilyn and like Judy, she was so much a star that she didn’t need a surname. In certain circles, at least, she was just Susan, even to people who had never met her but who would nevertheless talk knowledgeably and intimately about her latest piece in The New York Review of Books, her position on Sarajevo, her verdict on the new W. G. Sebald book. She brought to the world of ideas not just an Olympian rigor but a glamour and sexiness it had seldom seen before.
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