A Lettered Life

Pop culture’s current fascination with the high-low mix is surely indebted to Susan Sontag and her razor-sharp deconstructions of subjects large and small. “The really important thing is not to reject anything,” she once wrote, and Godard, war photography, Diane Arbus, camp, and AIDS all got their due from the late critic, novelist, and filmmaker, who emerged as one of the most provocative intellectuals of the last half-century. A documentary out in December from HBO, Regarding Susan Sontag, directed by Nancy Kates, puts Sontag’s work, and the life behind it, into focus. Kates’s life-spanning portrait of Sontag takes stock of her ever-evolving relationship with her own identity, sexuality, ambition, and success, forming a humanistic account of the woman behind the words.