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Sontag : Her Life and Work
by Benjamin Moser




Overview -

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE

Finalist for the Lambda Literary Award

Finalist for the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography

Named one of the Best Books of the Year by: O Magazine, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Seattle Times

The definitive portrait of one of the American Century's most towering intellectuals: her writing and her radical thought, her public activism and her hidden private face

No writer is as emblematic of the American twentieth century as Susan Sontag. Mythologized and misunderstood, lauded and loathed, a girl from the suburbs who became a proud symbol of cosmopolitanism, Sontag left a legacy of writing on art and politics, feminism and homosexuality, celebrity and style, medicine and drugs, radicalism and Fascism and Freudianism and Communism and Americanism, that forms an indispensable key to modern culture. She was there when the Cuban Revolution began, and when the Berlin Wall came down; in Vietnam under American bombardment, in wartime Israel, in besieged Sarajevo. She was in New York when artists tried to resist the tug of money--and when many gave in. No writer negotiated as many worlds; no serious writer had as many glamorous lovers. Sontag tells these stories and examines the work upon which her reputation was based. It explores the agonizing insecurity behind the formidable public face: the broken relationships, the struggles with her sexuality, that animated--and undermined--her writing. And it shows her attempts to respond to the cruelties and absurdities of a country that had lost its way, and her conviction that fidelity to high culture was an activism of its own.

Utilizing hundreds of interviews conducted from Maui to Stockholm and from London to Sarajevo--and featuring nearly one hundred images--Sontag is the first book based on the writer's restricted archives, and on access to many people who have never before spoken about Sontag, including Annie Leibovitz. It is a definitive portrait--a great American novel in the form of a biography.

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More About Sontag by Benjamin Moser

 
 
 

Overview

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE

Finalist for the Lambda Literary Award

Finalist for the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography

Named one of the Best Books of the Year by: O Magazine, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Seattle Times

The definitive portrait of one of the American Century's most towering intellectuals: her writing and her radical thought, her public activism and her hidden private face

No writer is as emblematic of the American twentieth century as Susan Sontag. Mythologized and misunderstood, lauded and loathed, a girl from the suburbs who became a proud symbol of cosmopolitanism, Sontag left a legacy of writing on art and politics, feminism and homosexuality, celebrity and style, medicine and drugs, radicalism and Fascism and Freudianism and Communism and Americanism, that forms an indispensable key to modern culture. She was there when the Cuban Revolution began, and when the Berlin Wall came down; in Vietnam under American bombardment, in wartime Israel, in besieged Sarajevo. She was in New York when artists tried to resist the tug of money--and when many gave in. No writer negotiated as many worlds; no serious writer had as many glamorous lovers. Sontag tells these stories and examines the work upon which her reputation was based. It explores the agonizing insecurity behind the formidable public face: the broken relationships, the struggles with her sexuality, that animated--and undermined--her writing. And it shows her attempts to respond to the cruelties and absurdities of a country that had lost its way, and her conviction that fidelity to high culture was an activism of its own.

Utilizing hundreds of interviews conducted from Maui to Stockholm and from London to Sarajevo--and featuring nearly one hundred images--Sontag is the first book based on the writer's restricted archives, and on access to many people who have never before spoken about Sontag, including Annie Leibovitz. It is a definitive portrait--a great American novel in the form of a biography.


 

Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062896391
  • ISBN-10: 0062896393
  • Publisher: Ecco Press
  • Publish Date: September 2019
  • Page Count: 832
  • Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds


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BookPage Reviews

Sontag

Perhaps no writer of the late 20th century has been more mythologized, or lionized, than Susan Sontag. Beautifully written and moving, Benjamin Moser’s Sontag: Her Life and Work reveals with illuminating clarity Sontag’s ceaseless quest to understand and be understood; her often arrogant and condescending manner, even to those closest to her; and her attempts to use art to fashion herself into the iconic figure she became in life and death.

Drawing deeply on hundreds of interviews with Sontag’s family and friends, as well as on materials in Sontag’s restricted archives and her published and unpublished writings, Moser traces her life from her childhood and youth, to her years at the University of Chicago, and throughout her attempts to distance herself from reality by aestheticizing it in her critical essays and fiction. Sontag’s father died when she was 5, and her mother remained distant, so she retreated into books. “Reading gave Susan a way to recast reality. . . . When she needed to escape, books let her close the door,” Moser writes. Looking back on her childhood, Sontag revealed a theme in her journals that defined her entire work and life: “I grew up trying both to see and not to see.”

Moser’s close readings of Sontag’s writings—from her earliest essays (“Notes on Camp,” “Against Interpretation”) to her failed novels (The Benefactor) and her successful ones (The Volcano Lover, In America)—reveal the theme of language’s relationship to reality. For Sontag, “language could console, and how it could destroy.” Alongside his elegant readings, Moser delves into the rocky relationships that resulted from Sontag’s inability to be alone—from her son, David, to her lover, Annie Leibovitz, to artists such as Jasper Johns and Joseph Brodsky. 

Sontag may have been our last public intellectual. She cast her intense gaze over art, literature, film and politics, boring into her subjects with a steely vision that revealed the many facets not only of those subjects but also of herself. Moser’s monumental achievement captures the woman who, among other things, “demonstrated endless admiration for art and beauty—and endless contempt for intellectual and spiritual vulgarity.” This brilliant book matches Sontag’s own brilliance and finally gives her the biography she deserves.

 

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