Posted in Short Stories

Susan Sontag: The Way We Live Now (Deal Me In 2017 – Week 28)

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I was thinking, Ursula said to Quentin, that the difference between a story and a painting or photograph is that in a story you can write, He’s still alive, But in a painting or a photo you can’t show “still”. You can just show him being alive. He’s still alive, Stephen said.

Wonderful Town

Susan Sontag tells her story “The Way We Live Now” from a curious point of view or I should probably say points of view because almost each sentence comes from the thoughts of one of numerous friends of a dying man.

So many friends on the one hand can be a little distracting while reading the story; however, on the other hand, it amazingly illustrates the interconnectedness and community of all of these people. Sontag published the story in 1986, and while never mentioned, it becomes clear that the man is dying of AIDS. The large cast of characters not only gives many different ways in which these individuals deal with the disease but it also seems to represent the way the world had to deal with it then and has to deal with it now. And that dealing with it isn’t a choice.

This story is included in my copy of Wonderful Town: New York Stories from the New Yorker edited by David Remnick. I read it when I selected the Nine of Hearts for Week 28 of my Deal Me In 2017 short story project. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis. And speaking of Jay, here is his post about this story from a few years ago.


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