Once-in-a-generation genius or arrogant, pretentious plagiarist?
|by Anonymous||reply 99||06/15/2013|
How about good essayist who knew how to spot an intellectual trend?
|by Anonymous||reply 1||08/19/2010|
I've heard repeatedly from so many people that she was pretty much a miserable excuse for a human being, no matter how bright and successful she was.
She bullied people when she went to give lectures and behaved very outrageously and highhandedly.
|by Anonymous||reply 2||08/19/2010|
|by Anonymous||reply 3||08/21/2010|
I imagine she had a very hirsute vagina.
|by Anonymous||reply 4||08/21/2010|
How about crashing bore?
|by Anonymous||reply 5||08/21/2010|
We love her.
|by Anonymous||reply 6||08/21/2010|
She used to hold court at art houses like she invented the movie camera.
|by Anonymous||reply 7||08/21/2010|
Camillel Paglia tells a funny story about inviting her to speak at Bennington (?). Sontag wasn't nasty but she wasn't pleasant, either. Wolfe said Sontag spent her life signing up for protests and lumbering to the podium, "encumbered by her prose style." In the late eighties, on a trip to LA, she refused to meet with the press, letting her son run interference with them for her. That's all I know.
|by Anonymous||reply 8||08/22/2010|
There's a hilarious memoir of her by Terry Castle that ran in the London Review of Books that talks about how impossibly pretentious Sontag and her friends were.
|by Anonymous||reply 9||08/22/2010|
Edmund White writes in 'City Boy' that if only SS had won the Nobel, like many of her friends, she'd have been much nicer to be around.
|by Anonymous||reply 10||08/22/2010|
Thanks r9. The Castle piece is good!
|by Anonymous||reply 11||08/22/2010|
[quote]Not once, unfortunately, on any of her California trips, did Sontag ever come to my house, though I often sat around scheming how to get her to accept such an invitation. If only she would come, I thought, I would be truly happy. It%C3%A2%C2%80%C2%99s hard to admit how long %C3%A2%C2%80%C2%93 and how abjectly, like a Victorian monomaniac %C3%A2%C2%80%C2%93 I carried this fantasy around. (It long antedated my actual meeting with her.) It is still quite palpable in the rooms in which I spend most of my time. Just about every book, every picture, every object in my living-room, for example %C3%A2%C2%80%C2%93 I now see all too plainly %C3%A2%C2%80%C2%93 has been placed there strategically in the hope of capturing her attention, of pleasing her mind and heart, of winning her love, esteem, intellectual respect etc etc. It%C3%A2%C2%80%C2%99s all baited and set up: a room-sized Venus Fly-Trap, courtesy of T-Ball/ Narcissism Productions.
I don't get people like this. And why let someone humiliate you not matter how famous they are. Weird.
|by Anonymous||reply 12||08/22/2010|
Interesting Castle essay.
|by Anonymous||reply 13||08/22/2010|
Camillel Paglia is now revered over Susan Sontag???
|by Anonymous||reply 14||08/22/2010|
who said that?
|by Anonymous||reply 15||08/22/2010|
she date Annie Lebowitz - both total cunts
she was pretentious gasbag with stupid hair
|by Anonymous||reply 16||08/22/2010|
I sat behind Sontag and Lebowitz at Roy Cohn/Jack Smith.
They spent the intermission tut-tutting over how terrible and dishonest closet cases like Cohn were. They did not sense the irony.
Many times since I wished I had had the balls to lean forward and tell them that they were just as closeted as Cohn.
|by Anonymous||reply 17||08/22/2010|
Pretentious and closeted Sontag and Leibowitz may have been, r17, but they were still a far cry from Cohn, who used the state and public opinion to murder Ethel Rosenberg when he knew she was innocent, and who also actively ruined dozens of careers during the McCarthy era.
I disliked Sontag strongly (and continue to do), but there's just no comparison between her and Cohn. She was narcissistic and pompous, but he was genuinely evil.
|by Anonymous||reply 18||08/22/2010|
|by Anonymous||reply 19||08/22/2010|
They weren't talking about his actions in relation to the Rosenberg or politics. They were talking about him as a closeted gay man.
I guess you are trying to say that because Cohn did so many wrong things and Sontag did fewer that that somehow absolved her from responsibility for her negative actions.
Even Sontag herself would have found that view suspect.
|by Anonymous||reply 20||08/22/2010|
It's long been fashionable to denigrate Susan Sontag, but in fact she pretty clearly was a genius, if not quite in the topmost tier. No one has ever written better on photography, for instance.
I suppose she was a miserable human being, but then that's also true of most of you, no?
|by Anonymous||reply 21||08/22/2010|
When was Sontag closeted?
|by Anonymous||reply 22||08/22/2010|
What's the point in savaging her in death?
|by Anonymous||reply 23||08/22/2010|
[quote]I guess you are trying to say that because Cohn did so many wrong things and Sontag did fewer that that somehow absolved her from responsibility for her negative actions.
That's not at all what he's saying. You're putting words in someone else's mouth.
|by Anonymous||reply 24||08/22/2010|
[quote]It's long been fashionable to denigrate Susan Sontag, but in fact she pretty clearly was a genius, if not quite in the topmost tier.
[quote]No one has ever written better on photography, for instance.
Roland Barthes did.
[quote]What's the point in savaging her in death?
This is a gay gossip board. If you're looking for hugs and kisses and words of praise, I suggest you go elsewhere.
|by Anonymous||reply 25||08/22/2010|
How would YOU make sense of what he said?
He clearly says that Cohn is in a different (worse) category than Sontag and Lebowitz. The context was that I was critical of Sontag for not recognizing that she was as closeted as he was.
Why else would he want to give her a pass?
|by Anonymous||reply 26||08/22/2010|
He didn't "give her a pass" at all, r26. Read it again:
[quote]Pretentious and closeted Sontag and Leibowitz may have been, [R17], but...
[quote]I disliked Sontag strongly (and continue to do),
He said she was dislikable, pretentious, and closeted, but that she still wasn't as evil as Cohn because she never arranged to have someone electrocuted or ruin someone's career because of Mccarthyist innuendo. That's not "absolv[ing] Sontag from her negative actions."
|by Anonymous||reply 27||08/22/2010|
Hannah Arendt was a genius. Sontag just a curiosity piece.
|by Anonymous||reply 28||08/22/2010|
For one, R1 ends the thread.
|by Anonymous||reply 29||08/22/2010|
The only point of comparison I made was that they were both closeted, so I assumed that he was referring to that.
Perhaps you are right and he was only illogical.
(Let see if I can pick up his style:) And Cohn never directed bad theatrical productions in Eastern Europe or had to see his novels derided by a new generation. (Its kind of exhilarating to stray so wildly.) Maybe if Sontag was a better skater, her empathy for victims of consumer fraud would have been greater. That is the real difference between Cohn and Sontag--he was a good dancer and she was a klutz.
(Its fun when you let go of coherence and sentence-to-sentence logic.)
|by Anonymous||reply 30||08/22/2010|
But he did not go on Dancing with the Stars.
|by Anonymous||reply 31||08/22/2010|
[quote]And Cohn never directed bad theatrical productions in Eastern Europe
Even if they were bad (please, posts some links to prove your assessment), she was in Sarajevo at a particularly brutal time for the people living there. Working on a play during a siege must have given them some sense of sanity. At least I hope so.
|by Anonymous||reply 32||08/22/2010|
Again, R1 gets it right. The good news is that when you read her work you don't have to live with her personality, which sounds horrendous. But if you've spent years with would-be intellectuals kissing your butt then it's not a surprise that you're a mess.
|by Anonymous||reply 33||08/22/2010|
I'm 55 years old and have a postgraduate education. I know Susan Sontag's name and knew she was a writer and a feminist, but I never read anything she wrote or heard her interviewed. She was just a name.
|by Anonymous||reply 34||08/22/2010|
I'm 56 and have a postgraduate education, R34. I have heard of Sontag and I've read her work. %0D %0D What's your point? Because you've never read her stuff, she's not important?
|by Anonymous||reply 35||08/22/2010|
Do you think Susan ever ate at Waffle House or Chick-Fil-A?
|by Anonymous||reply 36||08/22/2010|
She was a brilliant essayist who was on top of intellectual trends (at times even launching them), but also steeped in cultural criticism and the history of ideas in a terrifyingly comprehensive way.
|by Anonymous||reply 37||08/22/2010|
She's impressive if you first start reading her as a teenager and have read few other works to compare her stuff to. Later you discover that other people have written much more interestingly on the same subjects.
I think Edmund White was fairly objective about her in "City Boy." I recall him writing something about her work being "smarter" than she was, something that she admitted to him.
No mention of the influential "Notes on Camp" on DL?
|by Anonymous||reply 38||08/22/2010|
Of course others have written more deeply on any given topic, but few have written as broadly.
|by Anonymous||reply 39||08/22/2010|
She's a DL villain.
|by Anonymous||reply 40||08/22/2010|
Still trying to save face, r30?
|by Anonymous||reply 41||08/22/2010|
I keep imagining Susan Sontag and Wendy Wasserstein scissoring and then talking about Lacan.
|by Anonymous||reply 42||08/22/2010|
A friend and I went to dinner one night in Harvard Square, sometime in the early 90's. The hostess explained that they were full, but there was a large table we could share with another two guests, if they didn't mind and we didn't mind. Neither one did. Susan Sontag and a friend were the other two. We didn't engage them in conversation, but they seemed very friendly and affable, and I was shocked that she would allow the restaurant to do that. She can't be all bad.
|by Anonymous||reply 43||08/22/2010|
I knew Susan Sontag!!!! We met through friends. Though I'm a writer as well, I am a very well trained (classical) musician, who (go ahead and yawn) sometimes appeared on radio (remember that?) and more rarely on TV and played my analyses of familiar and less familiar works and also talked about literary links to those works. After seeing her at a few parties I ran into her at Academy Records, (still going), a place in the village that sells used and out of print records (LPs)and when I first ran into her there was just starting to sell used CDs.
We started a conversation and ended up having coffee. Every once in a while she'd call and say, 'I'm going to Tower downtown,' (in demise) or 'are you going by Academy this afternoon?' If I got the call I'd meet up with her and we'd usually have coffee or a drink, once in a while we were joined at a Japanese restaurant behind the Public Theater by one of her pals (ladies usually, I'm male).
In these situations she was fun if edgy and jittery in ways that could be distracting. She didn't seem like a 'bad' person at all,
However in public it was a different story. She never snubbed me. But I saw her be really unpleasant to people, act like a royal cunt. I don't have it in me to hate Annie, for one thing she got me work at Vogue (I'd pitch her a story I thought she'd like to shoot, she'd pitch that ueber cunt Wintur, who'd have eaten Susan, bones and all and voila!) But I thought Annie was really one major horror. With Susan it depended, and she could be really amusing (not ONLY at the expense of others, though she was a master at taking people apart).
As to her novels, I hated them. Her best essays written when I was in graduate school are fine in the context of that time. She was certainly brilliant and sometimes right minded and brave (won't swear to her talent but the theater work was well intended). Our paths diverged in the late 90's but after years of silence, ironically we had a final encounter in Paris in 2002 and she was very nice.
I don't suppose one 'liked' Susan (or most of the people in her circle) but I enjoyed her company more than Ed White's. I met him in a fat-dr's office (!!!!!!), some years before I met her and detested him on sight. But we knew so many people in common I kept running into him. I thought he was a jealous, tasteless, preposterously promiscuous cunt whose 'writing' has been wildly overpraised, and though he had some very hard times, he is not deserving of recent great luck and most of his recent output has been awful.
Just my queer as a 3 dollar bill cents.
|by Anonymous||reply 44||08/22/2010|
Not every theatrical production was videotaped and posted on youtube.
My assessment is based on reports from close friends who accompanied Sontag to Sarajevo and on seeing her attempts at theatrical direction in the US. (Two of these were never open to the public.)
Sometimes there is no link---you just have to trust the eyewitnesses.
|by Anonymous||reply 45||08/22/2010|
I love the description in the Castle essay of the dinner party with Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson. LA makes some gesture to indicate she wants Castle to pass the wine, and poor Castle thinks Anderson is actually interested in talking to her. The whole dinner party (where TC is the odd one out as an English professor) sounds like a bad dream, but she describes it hilariously.
|by Anonymous||reply 46||08/22/2010|
more gossip, please, r45!!!
|by Anonymous||reply 47||08/22/2010|
The party is so funny because it rings so true.
Also, out of that crowd Anderson IS the person who would chat up the interesting "nobody." It was a surprise to be that she only wanted wine because her warmth is pretty well-known.
|by Anonymous||reply 48||08/22/2010|
Camille Paglia delighted in the fact that Page Six (NY Post) and "Entertainment Weekly" picked up on the story of her and Sontag's little "feud" (based on Paglia challenging Sontag in public about being her younger successor and clued into pop culture, unlike Sontag), when Susan normally wouldn't be caught dead in those publications. For weeks, when journalists asked SS about CP, SS would simply answer "I don't know who she is", until she couldn't get away with it any longer. Her son, David Rieff, was very disparaging of Paglia.
|by Anonymous||reply 49||08/22/2010|
Interesting post, R44!
|by Anonymous||reply 50||08/22/2010|
Wow, it's so rare to get first hand gossip these days that I, actually, got excited reading R44's post. Thank you. And R43, as well. That must have been an interesting dinner to sit through.
|by Anonymous||reply 51||08/22/2010|
Well, if no one else will say it, I will. Genius.
|by Anonymous||reply 52||08/22/2010|
Who is a genius? Sean Lennon?
|by Anonymous||reply 53||08/22/2010|
[quote]Also, out of that crowd Anderson IS the person who would chat up the interesting "nobody."
But she doesn't. She asks her to pass something instead.
|by Anonymous||reply 54||08/22/2010|
|by Anonymous||reply 55||08/23/2010|
Was just thinking of Sontag today. Bumping.
|by Anonymous||reply 56||09/03/2010|
Here is a response to Terry Castle's piece "Desperately Seeking Susan", written by a blogger who attended the dinner party Castle describes in the article.
|by Anonymous||reply 57||09/03/2010|
One of those pathetic Americans who are somehow convinced they're French.
|by Anonymous||reply 58||09/03/2010|
She was already forgotten before she died.
When she died, people went, "Oh, her. I forgot about her. She was still alive?"
|by Anonymous||reply 59||09/03/2010|
What happened to her supposedly vast library after she died?
|by Anonymous||reply 60||09/03/2010|
I'm ashamed to admit, I've never read her. Can those of you who have recommend something of hers? Should I start with essays or novel?
|by Anonymous||reply 61||09/03/2010|
John Simon in "New York" magazine once wrote that although he had strong disagreements with her, he considered her the finest mind in NYC. Quite simply, she was the most brilliant critic of her generation. "On Photography," "AIDS and its Metaphors," "Illness as Metaphor," "Regarding the Pain of Others," "Under the Sign of Saturn," and "Against Interpretation." Her novel "The Volcano Lovers" is good, and "In America" better. No one has that record, certainly not Paglia.
Time is the final judge. Sontag will last. Paglia? Lol. Please. As for her personality, who cares? The Castle piece is pathetic, and clearly the work of the self-conscious middle-brow who desperately wants approval. Sontag worked at being an intellectual, and she leaves behind an enormous legacy that will last.
Trust me. I mean, who reads Paglia seriously these days?
|by Anonymous||reply 62||09/03/2010|
So who was the last intellectual who was actually a nice person (at least most of the time)?
|by Anonymous||reply 63||09/04/2010|
No one reads Susan Sontag except for students in Critical Theory classes who are forced to do so.
|by Anonymous||reply 64||09/04/2010|
Most people like the so-called reality shit that pollutes the air waves. So that does mean that Songtag's work is worthless because stupid shits like know-nothing shit, R64?
|by Anonymous||reply 65||09/04/2010|
I just wanna say in defense of Ed White that he's a much nicer guy than Sontag was.
Also that Sontag's essays are not critical reflections, for the most part: They are the work of an enthusiast who wants to impose her values on the rest of us.
She was never more than an enthusiast. It is wrong to call her an intellectual.
That said, I've read all her books - even her bland (last two) and unreadable (first two) novels - many times, and there are phrases of hers that still stick in my head. She has an advertising exec's talent for quotable phrases.
She once said, "My writing is smarter than I am," by which I guess she meant that she revised and revised and revised, always pushing the work a little further each time.
So she was smart about writing and revising.
I don't know: I fell in love with her photo on the cover of I, ETC. when I was 21, and it's hard to let go of your first love. But she is, on balance, I'd say, basically a middle-brow enthusiast who had the good fortune to see Jean-Luc Godard films before everybody else.
|by Anonymous||reply 66||09/04/2010|
How come we ran out of things to say about La Sontag?
|by Anonymous||reply 67||11/14/2010|
"She's a DL villain."
Who the hell isn't?
|by Anonymous||reply 68||11/14/2010|
She pops up in quite a few Aesthetics anthologies I have used in teaching, usually she is presented as a counterpoint to Arthur Danto. Danto advocating "deep interpretation" and Sontag advocating appreciating a work of art because of your own a priori experience of it, rather than any deep interpretation referring to the artists' state of mind, psychology, or political context. Like others posted before, there are other theorists who said it better. But for undergraduates in their first aesthetics class, her essays are a good example to chew on.
|by Anonymous||reply 69||11/14/2010|
Her essays in Against Interpretation are classics and as influential a body of work in its time as anything written since.
|by Anonymous||reply 70||11/14/2010|
There is nothing about being a critic that is disreputable. A critic illuminates and offers insight. She did this in spades (e.g., On Photography). The jealousy and bitterness that motivates so much of the "commentary" on this thread, however, dooms it to precisely the cuntishness that r71 diagnoses.
|by Anonymous||reply 72||11/14/2010|
The way Terry Castle quotes her in her profile, "Of course, Terry, mine is the greatest library in private hands in the world", makes her sound almost like a fool.
|by Anonymous||reply 73||11/14/2010|
"...and 'In America' better."%0D %0D Too bad she was a plagiarist. Let's all talk about how horrible Philip Roth is, though... He's someone truly deserving of opprobrium.
|by Anonymous||reply 74||11/14/2010|
|by Anonymous||reply 75||11/14/2010|
IN AMERICA is a wretchedly stupid novel - plagiarized or not. Sontag should have stolen from better stuff!
|by Anonymous||reply 76||11/15/2010|
How many fucking Sontag threads have we had? I think we've covered this all already and in much more detail in the past.
|by Anonymous||reply 77||11/15/2010|
Those threads are gone forever, though, and there are lots of new posters who apparently want to discuss her. The anniversary of her death is coming up, and the next volume of her journals is about to be released. So round and round we go.
|by Anonymous||reply 78||11/15/2010|
|by Anonymous||reply 81||06/19/2011|
Sontag drew fire for writing (in the Partisan Review, 1967) that:
"Mozart, Pascal, Boolean algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary government, baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Balanchine ballets, et al. don't redeem what this particular civilization has wrought upon the world. The white race is the cancer of human history."
According to journalist Christopher Hitchens, Sontag later recanted this statement, saying that "it slandered cancer patients".
|by Anonymous||reply 82||06/19/2011|
If she were an authenticated DL poster making regular posts about today's pop culture, she'd be the most popular person here.
|by Anonymous||reply 83||06/20/2011|
"she date Annie Lebowitz - both total cunts"%0D %0D DATED? They were long term partners. %0D %0D
|by Anonymous||reply 84||06/20/2011|
what biographies or memoirs would you recommend on miss Sontag?
|by Anonymous||reply 85||06/24/2011|
Terry Castle's hilarious article about her from the London Review of Books (featuring a cameo appearance by Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson):
|by Anonymous||reply 86||06/24/2011|
Sorry, didn't realize the Castle article was already posted earlier in the thread -
|by Anonymous||reply 87||06/24/2011|
The Sigrid Nunez book, "Sempre Susan", although slight, is a good read too. You can finish it in a couple of hours.
|by Anonymous||reply 88||06/25/2011|
"When was Sontag closeted?"%0D %0D Most of her life, it seems.
|by Anonymous||reply 89||06/25/2011|
|by Anonymous||reply 90||06/25/2011|
Amen, R78...I am one of those new posters. And I want details about Miss Sontag!
|by Anonymous||reply 91||06/25/2011|
|by Anonymous||reply 92||06/25/2011|
Who did AL leave her for?
|by Anonymous||reply 93||06/28/2011|
Sontag and Liebwitz(SP) broke up??
|by Anonymous||reply 94||07/01/2011|
I am glad I found this thread - by doing a Google search of all things- as I realize it must have been Sontag that Armistead Maupin was lampooning in "Significant Others" as an attendee at the Russian River Women's Music Festival (parody of MichFest)with whom D'Orothea has an affair.
|by Anonymous||reply 95||06/18/2012|
Agree with R71. Those who can't do become critics. Nothing more worthless.
|by Anonymous||reply 96||06/18/2012|
Reminds me of a friend who was roommates with a grad student in mass media who didn't even own a TV.
|by Anonymous||reply 97||06/18/2012|
I remember when I was dating my first lover in the early 80s--he was a decade older, a local theatre and book critic in Chicago, and he had just returned from a trip to NYC when we met. He talked about a dinner he had with Edmund White and Susan Sontag and how he and Ed White had fucked. I was insecure and young, despairing that I could ever measure up to this world. Well, of course, it turns out my partner was hardly unique--White would have sex with anyone who was willing, and if Sontag paid him any attention it was probably because he was a book critic who might write her a good review and because he was a gay Jewish man with a disability--someone she could add to her collection, if she remembered him the next hour. White continue to write him pleasant letters, but it's clear he had no plans to take my partner on as his next literary protege, and Sontag never featured again. (And why would she, in personal terms--it was probably the kind of dinner party Castle describes). I enjoyed Castle's memoir, mainly because I think she turns her gimlet eye on herself as much as on Sontag--the pretentious of the academy and of the soi-disant public intellectual--yet also acknowledging that, despite the pretensions, both had worthwhile things to say and good minds.
I've enjoyed White's novels off and on over the years; his "City Boy" a good memoir, some of his other less so (I just don't need the rather pathetic--if honest--descriptions of his forays into BDSM). Sontag was generally an indifferent novelist, though I enjoyed "In America" (I don't know much about the plagiarism charges) and, while some of her critical/philosophical are not well-argued, some have had immense impact--such as the illness and AIDS ones, and her final book, "Regarding the Pain of Others," which shows an intellectual willing to reconsider earlier positions based on life experiences and observations of other people. To me, that is the mark of a good intellectual--someone willing to revisit early positions they held and rethink them. And her son's memoir of his mother's final illness shows her at her best and worst--something intensely human in her disbelief that she will actually die this time. Like all of us, at some level, I suppose.
Besides, she would have made a fabulous Cruelle DeVille. And Camille Paglia is a flyspeck in comparison--a former colleague of mine went to high school with her in Syracuse and said she was insufferable a show-boater then as she was when "Sexual Personae" made its very minor splash.
|by Anonymous||reply 98||06/19/2012|
Sontag was completely lacking any semblance of a sense of humor, which in many ways is worse
|by Anonymous||reply 99||06/15/2013|