Brian Dillon

Radical Will

Susan Sontag

By

Reaktion 214pp £10.95 order from our bookshop

Ten years after her death, the question of Susan Sontag’s standing as a critic and novelist remains as vexed as it was in her life, but for more dismaying reasons. In her last decades it seemed, with some exceptions (notably the reflections on images of atrocity in Regarding the Pain of Others), that Sontag had squandered the hard, sleek brilliance of her early criticism in grand inflated verities. But now we’re also asked to accept the relatively trivial point that behind her cosmopolitan élan and erudition, she was, well, not very nice. And worse, that the strenuous literary self-invention, careerist fretting and personal animus on show in her diaries (two volumes of which have appeared since her death) prove nothing less than what her detractors had always claimed: Sontag was a charlatan, gussying banalities in avant-garde togs, shrugging on and off the philosophical or political garb of her intellectual betters.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'It would be nice to think that women will achieve equal pay in my lifetime, rather than to watch gloomily as stati… ,
    • In 1660, two of the signatories of King Charles I's death warrant fled across the Atlantic to New England. But were… ,
    • Howard Jacobson's sixteenth novel is 'a love story of sorts, one characterised not by physical desire or even conta… ,
    • 'The sudden immersion in the new and unfamiliar can lead people to write with a rare lack of self-consciousness' P… ,
    • 'Pools bend the rules. Clothes slip off, skin glistens, consciousness heightens. A dreamlike scenario unfolds' Jam… ,
    • 'Although he surely didn’t know W H Auden’s theory that every high C proclaims human freedom and our capacity to tr… ,
    • RT : With beginning tomorrow, we've uncovered a 1997 article from the archive reviewing 'Golf Dream… ,