Susan Sontag, Social Critic With Verve, Dies at 71
"The theme that runs through Susan's writing is this lifelong struggle to arrive at the proper balance between the moral and the aesthetic," Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic and an old friend of Ms. Sontag's, said in a telephone interview yesterday. "There was something unusually vivid about her writing. That's why even if one disagrees with it - as I did frequently - it was unusually stimulating. She showed you things you hadn't seen before; she had a way of reopening questions."
Through four decades, public response to Ms. Sontag remained irreconcilably divided. She was described, variously, as explosive, anticlimactic, original, derivative, naïve, sophisticated, approachable, aloof, condescending, populist, puritanical, sybaritic, sincere, posturing, ascetic, voluptuary, right-wing, left-wing, profound, superficial, ardent, bloodless, dogmatic, ambivalent, lucid, inscrutable, visceral, reasoned, chilly, effusive, relevant, passé, ambivalent, tenacious, ecstatic, melancholic, humorous, humorless, deadpan, rhapsodic, cantankerous and clever. No one ever called her dull.
Ms. Sontag's best-known books, all published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, include the novels "Death Kit" (1967), "The Volcano Lover" (1992) and "In America" (2000); the essay collections "Against Interpretation" (1966), "Styles of Radical Will" (1969) and "Under the Sign of Saturn" (1980); the critical studies "On Photography" (1977) and "AIDS and Its Metaphors" (1989); and the short-story collection "I, Etcetera" (1978). One of her most famous works, however, was not a book, but an essay, "Notes on Camp," published in 1964 and still widely read.
More on Susan Sontag:
A Rigorous Intellectual Dressed in Glamour
Thinking Woman: Susan Sontag Was An Irresistible Force Among Intellectuals
Books and Writers: Biographical Sketch
Regarding the Torture of Others
PBS: Video and Conversation With Sontag
Reviews/Essays Published in the New York Review of Books
The WTC Attacks
1992 Don Swaim Interview with Sontag
BBC Audio Interviews
BOOK TV: In Depth 3 Hour Interview
Interview with Bill Moyers
The Novelist and Moral Reasoning
Literature is Freedom
Of Courage and Resistance
So Whose Words Were They
Notes on Camp
Sontag Discussing and Reading From Her Books Regarding the Pain of Others and In America
Christopher Hichen: Remembering an Intellectual Heroine