Interviewed by: Suzan Sherman and Daniel Wentworth
Shot and edited by: Melissa Friedling/Slouch Productions
The Artist’s Life: Sigrid Nunez
In 1976 Sigrid Nunez moved in with her boyfriend David Rieff—and his famous mother, Susan Sontag—at 340 Riverside Drive. Nunez was in her 20s at the time and just beginning to make her own fledgling marks as a writer. As she recounts in her newly published book, Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag, living with mother and son created some understandable tensions, but at the same time Sontag became a key mentor. Reflecting now, Nunez considers Sontag as her “greatest influence.”
NYFA Current met up with Nunez on a rainy morning at City Bakery, one of the neighborhood cafés she commonly frequents to edit her writing. Nunez, who also teaches at the New School, then brought us to one of the university’s classrooms, covered in murals by the Mexican artist José Clemente Orozco. Nunez spoke to us about writing Sempre Susan, a very different project than her previous books, all of which are novels; learning discipline—“I spend my days writing and reading…I have a kind of monkish personality” — and the themes of memory and nostalgia that repeatedly recur in her books.
Sigrid Nunez has published six novels, including A Feather on the Breath of God, The Last of Her Kind, and, most recently, Salvation City. She is also the author of Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag, published March 30, 2011. Among the many journals to which she has contributed are The New York Times, Harper’s, McSweeney’s,The Believer, Tin House, and O, The Oprah Magazine. Her honors and awards include three Pushcart Prizes, a Whiting Writer’s Award, a Berlin Prize Fellowship, and two awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters: the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award and the Rome Prize in Literature.