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Susan Sontag

New Year's Day, 2005

Writer Susan Sontag died last week in Manhattan at the age of 71. (See the New York Times obituary for details.) I've know Sontag's name since my college days in the early 1970s, but it's only in the past few years that I've developed any first-hand knowledge of her work. I first really noticed her when she ignited a firestorm in the days after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks by writing in The New Yorker magazine that the attackers "were not cowards."

Earlier this year, the New York Times Magazine published Sontag's essay on prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. Here she argues that "the photographs are us" and that, in fact, the abuse of Iraqi prisoners was a consequence of policy decisions made at the highest levels of the U.S. government.

Sontag was never afraid of controversy, and regardless of whether or not you agree with her, you can't deny that her writing is compelling. Rest in peace, Ms. Sontag.

You may want to visit the New York Times' Susan Sontag retrospective page.