Sontag: Her Life and Work

Sontag: Her Life and Work

by Benjamin Moser


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062896391
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/17/2019
Pages: 832
Sales rank: 189,893
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.90(d)

About the Author

Benjamin Moser was born in Houston. He is the author of Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector, a finalist for the National Book Critics' Circle Award and a New York Times Notable Book. For his work bringing Clarice Lispector to international prominence, he received Brazil’s first State Prize for Cultural Diplomacy. He has published translations from French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Dutch. A former books columnist for Harper's Magazine and The New York Times Book Review, he has also written for The New Yorker, Conde Nast Traveler, and The New York Review of Books. 

Table of Contents

Introduction: Auction of Souls 1

Part I

Chapter 1 The Queen of Denial 17

Chapter 2 The Master Lie 29

Chapter 3 From Another Planet 37

Chapter 4 Lower Slobbovia 55

Chapter 5 The Color of Shame 67

Chapter 6 The Bi's Progress 79

Chapter 7 The Benevolent Dictatorship 93

Chapter 8 Mr. Casaubon 105

Chapter 9 The Moralist 119

Chapter 10 The Harvard Gnostics 133

Part II

Chapter 11 What Do You Mean by Mean? 151

Chapter 12 The Price of Salt 167

Chapter 13 The Comedy of Roles 183

Chapter 14 All Joy or All Rage 199

Chapter 15 Funsville 223

Chapter 16 Where You Leave Off and the Camera Begins 245

Chapter 17 God Bless America 265

Chapter 18 Continent of Neurosis 283

Chapter 19 Xu-Dan Xon-Tac 299

Chapter 20 Four Hundred Lesbians 317

Chapter 21 China, Women, Freaks 331

Chapter 22 The Very Nature of Thinking 349

Chapter 23 Quite Unseduced 363

Part III

Chapter 24 Toujours Fidèle 381

Chapter 25 Who Does She Think She Is? 403

Chapter 26 The Slave of Seriousness 417

Chapter 27 Things That Go Right 437

Chapter 28 The Word Won't Go Away 459

Chapter 29 Why Don't You Go Back to the Hotel? 475

Chapter 30 Casual Intimacy 491

Chapter 31 This "Susan Sontag" Thing 507

Chapter 32 Taking Hostages 523

Chapter 33 The Collectible Woman 535

Part IV

Chapter 34 A Serious Person 551

Chapter 35 A Cultural Event 569

Chapter 36 The Susan Story 585

Chapter 37 The Callas Way 599

Chapter 38 The Sea Creature 611

Chapter 39 The Most Natural Thing in the World 625

Chapter 40 It's What a Writer If 641

Chapter 41 A Spectator of Calamities 655

Chapter 42 Can't Understand, Can't Imagine 669

Chapter 43 The Only Thing That's Real 683

Epilogue: The Body and Its Metaphors 699

Acknowledgments 707

Notes 713

Bibliography 775

Credits 789

Index 793

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