Susan Sontag Essayist

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The strongest of these, “Old Complaints Revisited,” which relates the narrator’s uneasy feelings about her membership in an obscure organization, has been interpreted as an allegory for Judaism, but such a narrow reading discounts its playful Borgesian pleasures.

Sontag was an avowed fan of Donald Barthelme, and his influence is clear, especially in “American Spirits,” a pastiche of the love life of Miss Flatface, who hears the voices of the ghosts of famous Americans.

Her four novels split into two phases: a pair of experimental works of the ’60s ( the old antithesis of style versus content,” she wrote in 1965.) As Taylor writes in his foreword, Sontag “was an occasional rather than a habitual writer of short stories, turning to the form as certain expressive needs arose that couldn’t otherwise be satisfied.” In the form proves supremely flexible: memoir, diary, allegory, documentary, and even science fiction are all present.

Startlingly, the volume begins with a work that resembles straight autobiography.

He sat very erectly and seemed to be very, very old.

He was in fact seventy-two.” In conversation, Merrill “carried the ball,” engaging with Mann on the Faust legend, the theme of his next novel, mumbling that he’d never read Hemingway, as the author assumed all young Americans must be doing.But the picture changed with the posthumous publication of two books of journal notebooks — (2012) — that presented selections of her private writings from 1947 up to 1980.Sontag’s essays are necessary reading for an understanding of postwar American intellectual history.More than three decades have passed, and Cott has now printed the 12-hour interview in its entirety.The following excerpt from the Preface, details how the Susan Sontag interview came to be.(Yale University Press, 2013), profiles one of the most internationally renowned and controversial intellectuals of the latter half of the twentieth century.In 1979, Jonathan Cott, a founding contributing editor of Rolling Stone magazine interviewed Sontag, first in Paris and later in New York.Seriousness always pervaded her essays, but they grew more solemn with time, as her subjects moved to illness and the representation of war, while her writing on literature shifted toward neglected works of modernism, like Leonid Tsypkin’s .The journals, on the other hand, are no less serious and just as essential as the record of a writer and a woman imagining herself into being.“I was thinking, Ursula said to Quentin, that the difference between a story and a painting or a 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.


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