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Susan Sontag

Once-in-a-generation genius or arrogant, pretentious plagiarist?

by Anonymousreply 9906/15/2013

How about good essayist who knew how to spot an intellectual trend?

by Anonymousreply 108/19/2010

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 Anonymousreply 208/19/2010

Susan who??

by Anonymousreply 308/21/2010

I imagine she had a very hirsute vagina.

by Anonymousreply 408/21/2010

How about crashing bore?

by Anonymousreply 508/21/2010

We love her.

by Anonymousreply 608/21/2010

She used to hold court at art houses like she invented the movie camera.

by Anonymousreply 708/21/2010

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 Anonymousreply 808/21/2010

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 Anonymousreply 908/21/2010

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 Anonymousreply 1008/22/2010

Thanks r9. The Castle piece is good!

by Anonymousreply 1108/22/2010

[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 Anonymousreply 1208/22/2010

Interesting Castle essay.

by Anonymousreply 1308/22/2010

Camillel Paglia is now revered over Susan Sontag???

by Anonymousreply 1408/22/2010

who said that?

by Anonymousreply 1508/22/2010

she date Annie Lebowitz - both total cunts

she was pretentious gasbag with stupid hair

by Anonymousreply 1608/22/2010

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 Anonymousreply 1708/22/2010

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 Anonymousreply 1808/22/2010

Middle-Brow, pseudo-intellectual!

by Anonymousreply 1908/22/2010

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 Anonymousreply 2008/22/2010

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 Anonymousreply 2108/22/2010

When was Sontag closeted?

by Anonymousreply 2208/22/2010

What's the point in savaging her in death?

by Anonymousreply 2308/22/2010

[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 Anonymousreply 2408/22/2010

[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.

"In fact"?

[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 Anonymousreply 2508/22/2010


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 Anonymousreply 2608/22/2010

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 Anonymousreply 2708/22/2010

Hannah Arendt was a genius. Sontag just a curiosity piece.

by Anonymousreply 2808/22/2010

For one, R1 ends the thread.

by Anonymousreply 2908/22/2010


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 Anonymousreply 3008/22/2010

But he did not go on Dancing with the Stars.

by Anonymousreply 3108/22/2010

[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 Anonymousreply 3208/22/2010

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 Anonymousreply 3308/22/2010

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 Anonymousreply 3408/22/2010

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 Anonymousreply 3508/22/2010

Do you think Susan ever ate at Waffle House or Chick-Fil-A?

by Anonymousreply 3608/22/2010

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 Anonymousreply 3708/22/2010

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 Anonymousreply 3808/22/2010

Of course others have written more deeply on any given topic, but few have written as broadly.

by Anonymousreply 3908/22/2010

She's a DL villain.

by Anonymousreply 4008/22/2010

Still trying to save face, r30?

Keep trying.

by Anonymousreply 4108/22/2010

I keep imagining Susan Sontag and Wendy Wasserstein scissoring and then talking about Lacan.

by Anonymousreply 4208/22/2010

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 Anonymousreply 4308/22/2010

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 Anonymousreply 4408/22/2010


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 Anonymousreply 4508/22/2010

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 Anonymousreply 4608/22/2010

more gossip, please, r45!!!

by Anonymousreply 4708/22/2010

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 Anonymousreply 4808/22/2010

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 Anonymousreply 4908/22/2010

Interesting post, R44!

by Anonymousreply 5008/22/2010

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 Anonymousreply 5108/22/2010

Well, if no one else will say it, I will. Genius.

by Anonymousreply 5208/22/2010

Who is a genius? Sean Lennon?

by Anonymousreply 5308/22/2010

[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 Anonymousreply 5408/22/2010


by Anonymousreply 5508/23/2010

Was just thinking of Sontag today. Bumping.

by Anonymousreply 5609/03/2010

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 Anonymousreply 5709/03/2010

One of those pathetic Americans who are somehow convinced they're French.

by Anonymousreply 5809/03/2010

She was already forgotten before she died.

When she died, people went, "Oh, her. I forgot about her. She was still alive?"

by Anonymousreply 5909/03/2010

What happened to her supposedly vast library after she died?

by Anonymousreply 6009/03/2010

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 Anonymousreply 6109/03/2010

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 Anonymousreply 6209/03/2010

So who was the last intellectual who was actually a nice person (at least most of the time)?

by Anonymousreply 6309/04/2010

No one reads Susan Sontag except for students in Critical Theory classes who are forced to do so.

by Anonymousreply 6409/04/2010

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 Anonymousreply 6509/04/2010

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 Anonymousreply 6609/04/2010

How come we ran out of things to say about La Sontag?

by Anonymousreply 6711/14/2010

"She's a DL villain."

Who the hell isn't?

by Anonymousreply 6811/14/2010

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 Anonymousreply 6911/14/2010

Her essays in Against Interpretation are classics and as influential a body of work in its time as anything written since.

by Anonymousreply 7011/14/2010

There is one thing that the truly great minds of history all share: love of humanity.





Da Vinci


The fact that Sontag was such a cunt proves she was only skimming the surface of what this world is and has to offer. She desperately wanted to be acknowledged for her mind. And this desperation for the respect of others is what caused her to be such a cunt in public. Smart lady, but not smart enough to contribute any thing new. A critic. A commentator. Ever on the outside of all that she loved.

by Anonymousreply 7111/14/2010

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 Anonymousreply 7211/14/2010

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 Anonymousreply 7311/14/2010

"...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 Anonymousreply 7411/14/2010

Closet case

by Anonymousreply 7511/14/2010

IN AMERICA is a wretchedly stupid novel - plagiarized or not. Sontag should have stolen from better stuff!

by Anonymousreply 7611/15/2010

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 Anonymousreply 7711/15/2010

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 Anonymousreply 7811/15/2010

Queer teens are harassed and murdered and driven to suicide every day because of your contempt for women.

Stop the violence.

by Anonymousreply 7912/05/2010

DL use of the c-word, and the word "frau," must be stopped - not just because they are offensive, but because they are making it possible for people to harm queer teens.

Stop the violence.

by Anonymousreply 8012/13/2010


by Anonymousreply 8106/19/2011

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."[21]

According to journalist Christopher Hitchens, Sontag later recanted this statement, saying that "it slandered cancer patients".[22]

by Anonymousreply 8206/19/2011

If she were an authenticated DL poster making regular posts about today's pop culture, she'd be the most popular person here.

by Anonymousreply 8306/20/2011

"she date Annie Lebowitz - both total cunts"%0D %0D DATED? They were long term partners. %0D %0D

by Anonymousreply 8406/20/2011

what biographies or memoirs would you recommend on miss Sontag?

by Anonymousreply 8506/24/2011

Terry Castle's hilarious article about her from the London Review of Books (featuring a cameo appearance by Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson):

by Anonymousreply 8606/24/2011

Sorry, didn't realize the Castle article was already posted earlier in the thread -

by Anonymousreply 8706/24/2011

The Sigrid Nunez book, "Sempre Susan", although slight, is a good read too. You can finish it in a couple of hours.

by Anonymousreply 8806/24/2011

"When was Sontag closeted?"%0D %0D Most of her life, it seems.

by Anonymousreply 8906/25/2011

Terrible mother.

by Anonymousreply 9006/25/2011

Amen, R78...I am one of those new posters. And I want details about Miss Sontag!

by Anonymousreply 9106/25/2011

How, R90?

by Anonymousreply 9206/25/2011

Who did AL leave her for?

by Anonymousreply 9306/28/2011

Sontag and Liebwitz(SP) broke up??

by Anonymousreply 9406/30/2011

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 Anonymousreply 9506/18/2012

Agree with R71. Those who can't do become critics. Nothing more worthless.

by Anonymousreply 9606/18/2012

Reminds me of a friend who was roommates with a grad student in mass media who didn't even own a TV.

by Anonymousreply 9706/18/2012

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 Anonymousreply 9806/18/2012

Sontag was completely lacking any semblance of a sense of humor, which in many ways is worse

by Anonymousreply 9906/15/2013
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