The lives of other women

I think it was Patti Smith in her memoir Just Kids who said that as an artist it's important to pick one's role models and creative lineage. The idea stuck with me, especially because I already considered Patti Smith a role model. I now keep a mental list of mentors, something I return to whenever I need inspiration or motivation. One of the people on that list is Susan Sontag. For the American novelist Sigrid Nunez, Susan Sontag acted as a real-life, close-quarters role model; Nunez lived with Sontag briefly during her mid-twenties while she dating Sontag's son David Rieff. Nunez has just published Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag about her experiences under Sontag's tutelage: "She was naturally didactic and moralistic; she wanted to be an influence, a model, exemplary... I cannot recall a single book she recommended that I was not glad to have read."

We recently received two other biographies of famous women. From the Pulitzer-prize winning biographer Stacy Schiff, Cleopatra: A Life is a detailed new look at the near mythical figure. Captivating and accessible, Schiff's biography became a top national bestseller when it came out last year and was selected as a New York Times Book Review Best Book of the Year. It is newly in paperback.

In An Emergency in Slow Motion: the Inner Life of Diane Arbus, psychologist William Todd Schultz draws from his practice in contemporary psychological research to relate the biography of acclaimed American photographer Diane Arbus who committed suicide in 1971 at the age of forty-eight. A fascinating take on the tremendously talented photographer.

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