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It’s she, it’s she, it’s she

Joanna Biggs: Americans in Paris, 2 August 2012

Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag and Angela Davis 
by Alice Kaplan.
Chicago, 289 pp., £17, May 2012, 978 0 226 42438 5
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As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Diaries 1964-80 
by Susan Sontag.
Hamish Hamilton, 544 pp., £18.99, April 2012, 978 0 241 14517 3
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... Alice Kaplan’s Dreaming in French tells the story of three college girls – Jacqueline Bouvier, Susan Sontag and Angela Davis – who did. Kaplan, who wrote about her own year abroad in the memoir French Lessons, takes the three, who didn’t meet, as examples of mid-20th-century types: the (Catholic) aesthete, the (Jewish) bohemian and the ...

A Likely Story

Frank Kermode, 25 January 1996

Howard Hodgkin: Paintings 
by Michael Auping, John Elderfield and Susan Sontag, edited by Marla Price.
Thames and Hudson, 216 pp., £28, October 1995, 0 500 09256 7
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Howard Hodgkin 
by Andrew Graham-Dixon.
Thames and Hudson, 192 pp., £24.95, October 1994, 0 500 27769 9
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... in view of the sheer difficulty of finding anything really susceptible to being written about. As Susan Sontag remarks, ‘the thoughtful – as distinct from the inarticulate – may have good reason to be wary, anxious, at a loss (for words).’ She endorses Valéry’s obiter dicta, ‘One must always apologise for talking about painting,’ and: ‘A ...

Pen Men

Elaine Showalter, 20 March 1986

Men and Feminism in Modern Literature 
by Declan Kiberd.
Macmillan, 250 pp., £13.95, September 1985, 0 333 38353 2
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Women Writing about Men 
by Jane Miller.
Virago, 256 pp., £10.95, January 1986, 0 86068 473 3
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Phallic Critiques: Masculinity and 20th-century Literature 
by Peter Schwenger.
Routledge, 172 pp., £29.50, September 1985, 0 7102 0164 8
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... women writers.’ Furthermore, he told a large audience, ‘there are not that many women, like Susan Sontag, who are intellectuals first, poets and novelists second.’ Since ‘more men ... are deeply interested in intellectual matters than women,’ he concluded, to have invited more women simply for the sake of fairness would have meant ‘lowering ...

Sickness and Salvation

Sylvia Lawson, 31 August 1989

Aids and its Metaphors 
by Susan Sontag.
Allen Lane, 95 pp., £9.95, March 1989, 0 7139 9025 2
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The Whole Truth: The Myth of Alternative Health 
by Rosalind Coward.
Faber, 216 pp., £12.99, June 1989, 0 571 14114 5
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... pages), explicitly offered as a kind of sequel to Illness as Metaphor, written in 1976 when Susan Sontag was herself a cancer patient. Both show clear lines of affinity with her work in quite different areas. Twenty-five years ago, in Against Interpretation, she argued for a criticism which attended first, descriptively, to aesthetics, to the ...

The Meaninglessness of Meaning

Michael Wood, 9 October 1986

The Grain of the Voice: Interviews 1962-1980 
by Roland Barthes, translated by Linda Coverdale.
Cape, 368 pp., £25, October 1985, 0 224 02302 0
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Writing Degree Zero and Elements of Semiology 
by Roland Barthes, translated by Annette Lavers and Colin Smith.
Cape, 172 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 224 02267 9
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The Fashion System 
by Roland Barthes, translated by Matthew Ward and Richard Howard.
Cape, 303 pp., £15, March 1985, 0 224 02984 3
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The Responsibility of Forms: Critical Essays on Music, Art and Representation 
by Roland Barthes, translated by Richard Howard.
Blackwell, 312 pp., £19.50, January 1986, 0 631 14746 2
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The Rustle of Language 
by Roland Barthes, translated by Richard Howard.
Blackwell, 373 pp., £27.50, May 1986, 0 631 14864 7
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A Barthes Reader 
edited by Susan Sontag.
Cape, 495 pp., £15, September 1982, 0 224 02946 0
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Barthes: Selected Writings 
edited by Susan Sontag.
Fontana, 495 pp., £4.95, August 1983, 0 00 636645 7
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Roland Barthes: A Conservative Estimate 
by Philip Thody.
University of Chicago Press, 203 pp., £6.75, February 1984, 0 226 79513 6
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Roland Barthes: Structuralism and After 
by Annette Lavers.
Methuen, 300 pp., £16.95, September 1982, 0 416 72380 2
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Barthes 
by Jonathan Culler.
Fontana, 128 pp., £1.95, February 1983, 0 00 635974 4
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... And he became a writer in another sense, converted writing –‘his one great subject’, as Susan Sontag says – into his central practice, an embodiment or evocation of his concerns rather than a description of them. He stopped, as he said, writing on subjects – ‘It is that “on” which bothers me’ – even on the subject of writing. His ...

Not Enough Delilahs

Andrew O’Hagan: Lillian Ross, 4 July 2019

Picture 
by Lillian Ross.
NYRB, 219 pp., £14.99, June 2019, 978 1 68137 315 7
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... each name:Gloria Steinem – phoneyJanet Malcolm – pretentiousRenata Adler – crackpotSusan Sontag – nobodyNora Ephron – liarOther hand:Kenneth Tynan – creepTruman Capote – leechGeorge Plimpton – slickTom Wolfe – talentlessPhilip Roth – jerkIt was a mercy she only had two hands. To be fair, there were some men she liked. They tended to be ...

At Tate Britain

Peter Campbell: Howard Hodgkin, 6 July 2006

... 17 September) there are writings, culled from various sources, by Julian Barnes, James Fenton, Susan Sontag, William Boyd, Bruce Chatwin, Bruce Bernard and Colm Tóibín (Barnes has also made a loan to the exhibition). Some are affectionately biographical. Comparisons between Hodgkin’s art of memory and Proust’s are made.* The pleasure the ...

At the Hayward

Brian Dillon: ‘Invisible’, 2 August 2012

... silence one keeps.’ They are all, it turns out, a little different, and none of them pure or (as Susan Sontag put it) raw. Among the artists in Invisible perhaps Andy Warhol, already a walking void of sorts, gets closest. In 1985, at the Area nightclub in New York, he stood briefly on a white plinth and then was photographed beside the ‘invisible ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Muriel’, 11 August 2016

Muriel 
directed by Alain Resnais.
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... war, trauma, damage, memory, lost love. But we shouldn’t do this too simply or too directly. Susan Sontag was right to say that Muriel, like the other films, does ‘not go to the end, either of the idea or the emotion which inspires them’; but not going to end, in this case, seems to be just the meticulously studied point. There is no end, and ...

Spying on Writers

Christian Lorentzen, 11 October 2018

... woman with a crew-like haircut, masculine voice and a marvellous mind.’ An investigation into Susan Sontag conducted at Hoover’s request went on for four years and yielded little beyond Sontag’s résumé, her travels (most of which resulted in published articles), and a record of her anti-war activities, which ...

The Same Old Solotaire

Peter Wollen, 4 July 1996

‘Salome’ and ‘Under the Hill’ 
by Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley.
Creation, 123 pp., £7.95, April 1996, 1 871592 12 7
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Aubrey Beardsley: Dandy of the Grotesque 
by Chris Snodgrass.
Oxford, 338 pp., £35, August 1995, 0 19 509062 4
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... expert masturbation of her pet unicorn with the crook of her elbow. In her Notes on ‘Camp’ Susan Sontag might almost have substituted ‘Beardsley’ for ‘camp’ wherever the term occurs: Beardsley is a certain mode of aestheticism ... Beardsley’s art is often decorative art, emphasising texture, sensuous surface and style at the expense of ...

Fyodor, Anna, Leonid

Dan Jacobson: Leonid Tsypkin, 9 May 2002

Summer in Baden-Baden 
by Leonid Tsypkin, translated by Roger Keys and Angela Keys.
New Directions, 146 pp., $23.95, November 2001, 0 8112 1484 2
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... book – which is not to be confused with the stories told in the book? In her introduction to it, Susan Sontag passes on the information about the author which she has gleaned from his son and daughter-in-law, who now live in California. The facts are at once painful and inspiriting. Born in 1926 of Russian Jewish parents who had both been ...

I’m here to be mad

Christopher Benfey: Robert Walser, 10 May 2018

Walks with Robert Walser 
by Carl Seelig, translated by Anne Posten.
New Directions, 127 pp., £11.99, May 2017, 978 0 8112 2139 9
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Girlfriends, Ghosts and Other Stories 
by Robert Walser, translated by Tom Whalen, Nicole Köngeter and Annette Wiesner.
NYRB, 181 pp., £9.99, October 2016, 978 1 68137 016 3
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... portrait of a literary figure who remains – despite the highest praise from W.G. Sebald and Susan Sontag, among other admirers – stubbornly elusive. It has not always been easy, for Anglophone readers in particular, to place Walser’s strange productions. Kafka, who admired Walser’s newspaper work, is the inevitable comparison. The Viennese ...

Performing Seals

Christopher Hitchens: The PR Crowd, 10 August 2000

Partisans: Marriage, Politics and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals 
by David Laskin.
Simon and Schuster, 319 pp., $26, January 2000, 0 684 81565 6
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... not Abelard and Héloïse and never mind Dorothea and Casaubon. No breath of scandal attaches to Susan Sontag, much admired and desired as she was and is. My old comrade Norman Birnbaum was once married to Edith Kurtzweil, who still helps to bring out the etiolated remnant of PR. As far as I know, theirs was a separation on principled grounds. Hannah ...

Hottentot in Jackboots

John Bayley: The Cockney School, 10 June 1999

Poetry and Politics in the Cockney School 
by Jeffrey Cox.
Cambridge, 287 pp., £37.50, January 1999, 0 521 63100 9
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... in some of which the nude figures were suitably draped. In her novel The Volcano Lover Susan Sontag imagined Hamilton’s horror at this endless reproduction of his beloved vase. ‘Everyone could have, should have, a Portland Vase’ – but who could really love a vase which had become a mere ‘notion’? An ironic paradox is that while the ...

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