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Sontag: Her Life and Work
An indelible 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
“Benjamin Moser’s monumental biography reveals the surprisingly tender, insecure, simple and intellectually dedicated story of one the most remarkable literary figures to emerge in twentieth century America. Her influence on aesthetics, writing and the wider culture is almost impossible to overstate and Moser’s own fierce intelligence weaves between the life and the work quite magnificently. Definitive and delightful.”
“In this long-awaited, brilliant biography, Benjamin Moser show us how to read Sontag – and, by extension, her times – in the present, and reveals the extents and limits of her genius. His psychologically nuanced critical study is written with sang-froid and compassion.”
“For both Sontag scholars and those new to her, Moser has written an illuminating and important volume.”
—Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
“An astonishing page-turner, like a brilliant suspense novel (even for one who knew what happened next!). The Sue/Susan/Sontag/“Susan Sontag” character emerges here in all her wonderfulness and terribleness and staggering complexity. This is it: the last word on Susan Sontag.”
“If it’s already difficult to imagine American culture without Susan Sontag’s contributions to it, it may soon become difficult to imagine her life without Benjamin Moser’s account of it. A significant life like Sontag’s demands a significant biography. That demand has now been incisively, extravagantly met.”
“Gripping, insightful and supremely stylish biography. He makes a modern epic out of Sontag’s remarkable story.”
About the Book
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.