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„Completely humorless“ - was SS' Lover-Lord aus englischen Gaststudentenzeiten über die Autorin als Gesamturteil feststellt, trifft ein wenig auch auf dieses mit 800 S. (engl. Original) wie ihre eignen Romanversuche deutlich zu lang geratenes Opus zu. In ermüdender Repetition schiebt Moser ihr billigpsychologische Clichés unter, die Mutter Mildred war‘s, sie tat es mit ihrer Flasche hier, und wenn die Susy Rosenblatt zu ihrem Lesbentum gestanden hätt, wär sie ein bessrer Mensch gewesen. War sie aber nicht, sie war ein abscheulich egozentrisches, abwertendes, bösartiges, inmitten großartigster Listen der Erkenntnisse anderer Leut zu eigner Einsicht unfähiger savant idiot (merci, Josef Joffe), über dessen unfassbare Irrtümer (Hanoi Susy etc) und amphetamingesteuerten Salbadereien man nach Lektüre dieses immerhin äußerst detailreichen Werkes nur zu gern den Burberry des Vergessens breitet.
I have a hard time understanding why this landmark biography of Susan Sontag--surely one of the handful of truly important American writers and thinkers in the postwar era--isn't on pretty much every Best of the Year list. Sure, the account of her life pays an awful lot of attention, especially early on, to Sontag's looks and the image of Susan Sontag that she created and capitalized on--but as Moser points out, she was a kind of intellectual celebrity from the very start of her career, and as much as she resisted and even contradicted the image of 'Susan Sontag" in her own life, she depended in it for her livelihood. And the meaning and value of the mass produced image was one of the subjects that she returned to in her writing continually. There is a lot of good old fashioned gossip here (did you know that Susan Sontag slept with RFK? I didn't ...) and the way that the celebrity culture of the 1990s and the Vanity Fair-era of New York City seemed to catch up with her and made her rich, at least by proxy, is depressing for sure. No one likes to see a hero become a grasping monster ... But the real reason to read this book is for the way it creates an intellectual history of the postwar era, and the amazing thing is--Sontag was at the red-hot center of the international cultural conversation from the time she published "Notes on Camp" (1964) until she died in 2004. I'd also read the book for Moser's re-evaluation of Sontag's many trips to Sarajevo when the city was under siege. The staging of "Waiting for Godot" that she directed in Sarajevo was dismissed as a publicity stunt by too many people in the culture industry at the time. Moser shows this intervention to be one of the most rewarding projects of her career and an act of intellectual resistance for the ages. I will read this book again for sure. Its brilliance is a match for its subject.
I have only read the first 50 pages and am enjoying the book. However, Sontag's mother appears to have been a malignant narcissist as well as an alcoholic. A parent with Narcissistic Personality Disorder has a profoundly negative effect on their children to a much greater extent than one who is only an alcoholic. I'd like to see a biographer knowledgeable about NPD write about Sontag.
Benjamin Moser’s personal and bibliographic biography of Sontag: Her Life and Work deftly interweaves these two inextricable facets of a literary and cultural icon. I was most engaged reading about Sontag’s life, but also impressed by Moser’s insights into its influence on her work. As a developmental psychologist specializing in how childhood and families shape the people we become, I appreciated Moser’s thorough research, compilation of myriad perspectives, and comprehensive interpretations, even when I occasionally questioned them. As a writer (see my Amazon author page www.amazon.com/author/asewovenwords), I found his analysis of “metaphor,” the theme Sontag continually returned to, lucid and provocative. Writers strive for the perfect metaphor to illuminate reality and bring a person, object, or event to life. The irony, as Sontag repeatedly cautions, is that metaphor can distance us from reality. It’s an insoluble dilemma, which is why it proved such a rich vein (metaphor alert) for Sontag’s life’s work.
Now that I have read accusations of Moser’s bullying and theft of women’s work, I do not trust his integrity, so I will not be reading this 700+ page book. See review in LA Review of Books for the charges. I don’t know if those are true or fair, but they have made me lose my appetite for this book.