Imprint: Allen Lane
Length: 832 Pages
Susan Sontag was our last great literary star. Her brilliant, serious mind combined with her striking image, her rigorous intellectualism and her groundbreaking inquiries into what was then seen as 'low culture' - celebrity, photographs, camp - propelled her into her own unique, inimitable category and made her famous the world over, emblematic of twentieth-century New York literary glamour.
Today we need her ideas more than ever. Her writing on art and politics, feminism and homosexuality, celebrity and style, medicine and drugs, radicalism, Fascism, Freudianism, Communism and Americanism, forms an indispensable guide to our modern world. Sontag was present at many of the most crucial events of the twentieth century: when the Cuban Revolution began, and when the Berlin Wall came down, in Vietnam under American bombardment, in wartime Israel and in besieged Sarajevo. Sontag tells these stories and examines her work, as well as exploring the woman behind Sontag's formidable public face: the broken relationships, the struggles with her sexuality, her agonizing construction of herself and her public myth.
Sontag is the first biography based on exclusive access to her restricted personal archives and on hundreds of interviews conducted with many people around the world who spoke freely for the first time about Susan Sontag, including Annie Leibovitz. It is a definitive portrait of an endlessly complex, dazzling woman; one of the twentieth century's greatest thinkers, who lived one of its most fascinating lives.
Imprint: Allen Lane
Length: 832 Pages
Benjamin Moser's accomplishment here is breathtaking: it includes an extraordinary knowledge of the subject, her milieu, her writings, her ideas, and her friends and family, beautiful prose, extraordinary insights, a capacity to understand her driven emotional life and her stellar intellectual life. It will be called unsparing, because some of its truths about this complex figure are harsh, but it is generous to the subject as well as to readers who want to understand this woman who stood so tall and cast such a long shadow across twentieth-century intellectual life.
I always found Susan Sontag in turns brilliant, vain, wise, foolish, high, low, dazzlingly insightful, pretentious, pure ... but always fiercely and frighteningly intelligent, learned, alert and aware. 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. She stands reclaimed for our century, a much more lovable and variegated character than I ever guessed. Definitive and delightful
Susan Sontag made and broke the mold of American 20th century public intellectual. Fifteen years after her death, her ethos of 'high seriousness' seems quaint and dated. 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.
Benjamin Moser brings his iconic subject to life in this gripping, insightful and supremely stylish biography. He makes a modern epic out of Sontag's remarkable story, from her tortured relationship with her alcoholic mother to her unflinching visits to besieged Sarajevo, revealing at every turn the vital, complicated, imperfect human being behind the formidable public intellectual.
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. I can't imagine the necessity of another book about her life
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