WINNER OF THE 2020 PULITZER PRIZE FOR BIOGRAPHY
Selected as a Book of the Year 2019 by the SPECTATOR, TELEGRAPH, NEW STATESMAN and FINANCIAL TIMES
'Definitive and delightful' Stephen Fry
'There can be no doubting the brilliance - the sheer explanatory vigour - of Moser's biography... a triumph of the virtues of seriousness and truth-telling that Susan Sontag espoused' New Stateman
The definitive portrait of one of the twentieth century's most towering figures: her writing and her radical thought, her public activism and her private face
Susan Sontag was our last great literary star. Her brilliant mind, political activism and striking image made her an emblem of the seductions - and the dangers - of the twentieth-century world.
Her writing on art and politics, feminism and homosexuality, celebrity and style, medicine and drugs, Fascism and Freudianism, Communism and Americanism, reflected the conflicted meanings of a most conflicted word: modernity. She was there when the Cuban Revolution began and the Berlin Wall came down, in Vietnam under American bombardment, in wartime Israel. Sontag tells these stories and examines the work upon which her reputation was based, exploring the private woman hidden behind the formidable public face.
Drawing on hundreds of interviews conducted from Maui to Stockholm and from Manhattan to Sarajevo - and featuring nearly one hundred images, many never seen before - Sontag is the first book based on the writer's restricted archives, and on access to many people who have never before spoken about her, including Annie Leibovitz. It is an indelible portrait of one of the twentieth century's greatest thinkers, who lived one of that century's most romantic - and most anguished - lives.
Moser intelligently brings together both public and private, onstage and off-. His scrutiny of her essays, fiction, films, and political activism is clear-eyed, his analysis of her tumultuous affective life sympathetic... Sontag offers a thoroughly researched chronicle of an unparalleled American figure and the institutions tied to her... deft and sometimes dishy
Moser does rather a brilliant job...we have Sontag as daughter, friend, lover, wife and mother, but Moser's writing is appropriately bold and anecdotal, so there is less the feeling of years accrued than of selves tried out. He's an essayist, taking on an essayist, and his best passages are biographical readings of her writing. His assessment of her novels is punchy and insightful...this biography keeps her defiantly alive: argumentative, wilful, often right, always interesting, encouraging us to up our game as we watch her at the top of hers
Moser is good at elucidating Sontag's ideas and putting into context the fecundity of her thought. He discusses her "Olympian" sex life with sympathy and insight - her galaxy of lovers included Bobby Kennedy, Jasper Johns, Warren Beatty and Annie Leibovitz - and is unbiased when it comes to evaluating her writing
Moser's socially panoramic, psychologically incisive biography does a superb job of charting Sontag's self-invention
There can be no doubting the brilliance - the sheer explanatory vigour - of Moser's biography... a triumph of the virtues of seriousness and truth-telling that Susan Sontag espoused again and again but was conspicuously and often quite consciously unable to force herself to live by.
Moser has had the confidence and erudition to bring all of [Sontag's] contradictory aspects together in a biography fully commensurate with the scale of his subject. He is...a gifted, compassionate writer.
A portrait of the intellectual conscience of the babyboomer generation - faults and all
sensational...provides an indelible portrait of a personality, a career and various milieu
evocative and entertaining...Moser renders Sontag's ascent to intellectual stardom as a rich and often rollicking affair
An exhausting biography about an exhausting woman that will keep you up nights greedily reading all 800 pages until you pass out exhausted yourself - exhilarated and amazed at this difficult, brilliant but clueless writer's life.