Houston Matters

What Houston Native Benjamin Moser Learned From Susan Sontag’s Secret Archives

Moser has written a new biography of the famed writer and political activist called Sontag: Her Life and Work.

Susan Sontag in 1979
Writer and political activist Susan Sontag in 1979.

Writer and political activist Susan Sontag was sometimes radical and often provocative.

She once argued the white race was “the cancer” of human history. She countered the suggestion that the 9/11 hijackers were cowards. She wrote and spoke out about the AIDS crisis when others didn’t. And, when others wouldn’t, she traveled to Sarajevo during its siege.

In the latter half of the 20th century, Sontag was one of the voices who helped frame public debate — whether you agreed with her or not.

Now, a new biography chronicles her life. It’s called Sontag: Her Life and Work, and it’s written by Houston native Benjamin Moser, whose previous work caught the eye of someone overseeing Sontag’s estate. That’s how he got access to an extensive archive of Sontag’s writing and personal effects.

Susan Sontag at the National Book Awards in 2000
Susan Sontag, author of “In America,” accepts the National Book Award for fiction in 2000.

In the audio above, he tells Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty the opportunity was simultaneously thrilling and intimidating. And he discusses the revelations his book makes about Sontag’s sexuality, about a book she wrote that was long credited to her ex-husband, and about who she really was outside of the spotlight.

Moser will have more to share about the book at during an event at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston on Monday, Oct. 7.

Writer Benjamin Moser
Houston native Benjamin Moser was granted access to the secret archives of Susan Sontag for his new biography of the famed writer and political activist.

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Michael Hagerty

Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the senior producer for Houston Matters. He's spent more than 20 years in public radio and television and dabbled in minor league baseball, spending four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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