Notes on Sontag

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Princeton University Press, Mar 9, 2009 - Literary Collections - 256 pages
2 Reviews

Notes on Sontag is a frank, witty, and entertaining reflection on the work, influence, and personality of one of the "foremost interpreters of . . . our recent contemporary moment." Adopting Sontag's favorite form, a set of brief essays or notes that circle around a topic from different perspectives, renowned essayist Phillip Lopate considers the achievements and limitations of his tantalizing, daunting subject through what is fundamentally a conversation between two writers. Reactions to Sontag tend to be polarized, but Lopate's account of Sontag's significance to him and to the culture over which she loomed is neither hagiography nor hatchet job. Despite admiring and being inspired by her essays, he admits a persistent ambivalence about Sontag. Lopate also describes the figure she cut in person through a series of wry personal anecdotes of his encounters with her over the years.


Setting out from middle-class California to invent herself as a European-style intellectual, Sontag raised the bar of critical discourse and offered up a model of a freethinking, imaginative, and sensual woman. But while crediting her successes, Lopate also looks at how her taste for aphorism and the radical high ground led her into exaggerations that could do violence to her own common sense, and how her ambition to be seen primarily as a novelist made her undervalue her brilliant essays. Honest yet sympathetic, Lopate's engaging evaluation reveals a Sontag who was both an original and very much a person of her time.

 

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User Review  - BillsProtennoia - LibraryThing

Closer to 3.5 stars... Lopate, who was an acquaintance of Sontag's and apparently a well-known essayist himself (this is my first exposure to his work), has written a somewhat informal collection of ... Read full review

Contents

Against Interpretation
23
Early Memories of Sontag
37
Politics and Personae
47
BÍtes Noires
66
Crisis as StartingPoint
79
Are the Arts Progressive?
83
The Stylistics of Demystification
88
The Aphoristic Essay
93
Shallow America
149
The Volcano Lover
159
Performance Character and Theatre
166
The Essay Form Transgression and Innovation
171
Dont Get Personal
174
Later Memories of Sontag
184
Writings on Photography
202
More on Politics
217

The Film Essays
99
My Favorite Book of Hers
111
Readers Feeling Stupid
129
The Benefactor
135
Humor and Seriousness
141
Death Kit
143
On 911 and Television
223
Greatness besieged
227
Illness and Death
233
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
247
Copyright

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About the author (2009)

Phillip Lopate is the author of many books, including the essay collections Getting Personal (Basic), Against Joie de Vivre (Simon & Schuster), Portrait of My Body (Doubleday), and Bachelorhood (Little, Brown), as well as the anthology, The Art of the Personal Essay (Doubleday). Among his other books is Waterfront: A Walk around Manhattan (Crown). He teaches writing at Columbia University, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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