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I'd just gotten this book last week, started it, and had every intention of reading it, despite the fact that I've never been able to finish any of Susan Sontag's other books, and despite the fact that she plagiarized her last novel, In America.  Then I read this essay by Ms Sontag in The New Yorker :

    The disconnect between last Tuesday's monstrous dose of reality and the self-righteous drivel and
    outright deceptions being peddled by public figures and TV commentators is startling, depressing.
    The voices licensed to follow the event seem to have joined together in a campaign to infantilize
    the public.  Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a "cowardly" attack on "civilization" or
    "liberty" or "humanity" or "the free world" but an attack on the world's self-proclaimed
    superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions? How many
    citizens are aware of the ongoing American bombing of Iraq? And if the word "cowardly" is to be
    used, it might be more aptly applied to those who kill from beyond the range of retaliation, high in
    the sky, than to those willing to die themselves in order to kill others. In the matter of courage (a
    morally neutral virtue): whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday's slaughter, they were
    not cowards.

    Our leaders are bent on convincing us that everything is O.K. America is not afraid. Our spirit is
    unbroken, although this was a day that will live in infamy and America is now at war. But
    everything is not O.K. And this was not Pearl Harbor. We have a robotic President who assures us
    that America still stands tall. A wide spectrum of public figures, in and out of office, who are
    strongly opposed to the policies being pursued abroad by this Administration apparently feel free to
    say nothing more than that they stand united behind President Bush. A lot of thinking needs to be
    done, and perhaps is being done in Washington and elsewhere, about the ineptitude of American
    intelligence and counter-intelligence, about options available to American foreign policy,
    particularly in the Middle East, and about what constitutes a smart program of military defense.
    But the public is not being asked to bear much of the burden of reality. The unanimously
    applauded, self-congratulatory bromides of a Soviet Party Congress seemed contemptible. The
    unanimity of the sanctimonious, reality-concealing rhetoric spouted by American officials and
    media commentators in recent days seems, well, unworthy of a mature democracy.

    Those in public office have let us know that they consider their task to be a manipulative one:
    confidence-building and grief management. Politics, the politics of a democracyówhich entails
    disagreement, which promotes candoróhas been replaced by psychotherapy. Let's by all means
    grieve together. But let's not be stupid together. A few shreds of historical awareness might help us
    understand what has just happened, and what may continue to happen. "Our country is strong," we
    are told again and again. I for one don't find this entirely consoling. Who doubts that America is
    strong?  But that's not all America has to be.

Of course the policy that she's saying needs to be rethought is American support for Israel and opposition to Saddam Hussein and radical Islamic fundamentalist terrorism.  All well and good, such is her right as an American.  It seems hardly necessary to point out though the delicious irony that, as a bisexual Jew, Ms Sontag would be put to death rather quickly were she to open her big yap in one of the countries she's apparently decided to side with against America and Israel.

And lest you think her self-loathing ends with her own gender and religion, try this quote, from her days supporting North Vietnam (Partisan Review, Winter 1967) :

    The truth is that Mozart, Pascal, Boolean algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary government,
    baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Marx, Balanchine ballet et al.,
    don't redeem what this particular civilization has wrought upon the world. The white race is the
    cancer of human history. It is the white race and it alone--its ideologies and inventions--- which
    eradicates autonomous civilizations wherever it spreads, which has upset the ecological balance of
    the planet, which now threatens the very existence of life itself.

What can we possibly learn, that is of any value, from an author who completely rejects Western Civilization ?  As David Horowitz has noted, after getting cancer herself, Ms Sontag (who was only saved because of the medical advances that the culture she despises made possible) apologized : to cancer patients, for comparing the disease to Western Civilization, or "facism" as she called it.

So, I'll not be reading this book after all.  But I have found an appropriate use for it.  Some of you will recall the old Sears catalogue and the most common use to which it was put (for those of you who are too young to recall, let me just say that it was kept in the outhouse, back when it was hard to get ahold of paper products).  The book now resides in the john and I'm woofing down chili, baked beans, and corn on the cob & washing it all down with Genesee Cream Ale.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (T (for toilet paper))

  

Websites:

Book-related and General Links:
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA : "sontag, susan"
    -ESSAY : Susan Sontag, "The Traitor," Fires Back  (David Talbot, Salon, October 17, 2001)
    -SPEECH : In Jerusalem  (SUSAN SONTAG, speech given on May 9 in Jerusalem, in acceptance of the Jerusalem Prize for Literature)
    -PROFILE : The sphinx : Susan Sontag's beauty and brains made her America's most famous intellectual, but her true self is a mystery. (Vivian Gornick, Salon)
    -AWARD :  National Book Award winners announced : Surprised gasps greet wins by Sontag and Philbrick (Laura Miller, Salon)
    -ARTICLE : Susan Sontag to Get Israel Award (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, May 8, 2001)
    -ARTICLE : Susan Sontag wins 2001 Jerusalem Prize (Greer Fay Cashman, Jerusalem Post, March 14 2001)
    -ARTICLE : Prize-winner Sontag blasts collective punishment (Ori Nir, Ha'aretz, May 10, 2001 )
    -ESSAY : Sontag in Jerusalem (Australian Jewish Democratic Society, May 22, 2001)
    -ESSAY : SAID, SONTAG AND THE LAWS OF INTELLECTUAL SAFETY (Alexander Cockburn, Left Coast, March 20, 2001)
    -ESSAY : Jerusalem, Sarajevo and Sontag (Ammiel Alcalay, Bosnia Institute News)
    -ESSAY :  Fascinating Fascism (Susan Sontag, 1974)
    -New York State Writers' Institute : Susan Sontag
    -PROFILE : Finding fact from fiction : In returning to novel-writing, Susan Sontag has been able to escape from what she calls the 'insufferable moralism' of her essays and lectures. She has also discovered a new desire for the truth about herself that would finally free her from the burden of being labelled America's most intelligent woman (The Guardian, May 27, 2000)
    -PROFILE : This time it's not personal... : Susan Sontag has survived the terrors of Sarajevo, cancer and a horrific car crash to come back with an acclaimed new novel. One of America's intellectual icons, here she talks frankly about her life and work, her radical attitude to her illness - and the virtues of ginger ice cream (Ed Vulliamy, The Observer, May 21, 2000)
    -PROFILE : The Unquiet American - Susan Sontag : Has Old Skunk Head gone soft? America's foremost writer, critic and cultural guerrilla has a new book out - an historical romance (Maureen Freely, The Observer, March 5, 2000)
    -ESSAY : Sontag pleads poetic licence in using uncredited 'scraps of history' (Ed Vulliamy, The Observer, May 28 2000)
    -ESSAY : Sour "Notes on Camp" : Susan Sontag put gays on the cultural map in her magisterial 1964 essay, or so the familiar story goes. In hindsight, however, "Notes on Camp" can be seen as neither as impressive nor as gay-friendly as it seemed at the time. (Paul Varnell, Chicago Free Press, May 3, 2000).
    -ESSAY : Sontag in Wonderland : Auteur Director Ivo van Hove Brings Some Radical Will to ëAlice in Bedí (Charles McNulty, November 1 - 7, 2000, Village Voice)
    -ESSAY : Evil, Race, and Us (John A. Buehrens, Journal of Liberal Religion)
     -ESSAY : Muddling through in Bosnia (Stephen Schwartz, The New Criterion)
    -ESSAY : Radical Leftovers (Stephen Goode, Insight, November 22, 1999)
    -REVIEW : of In America BY SUSAN SONTAG (WALTER KIRN, New York)
    -REVIEW : of  In America by Susan Sontag (John Sutherland, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW : of In America (Tim Adams, The Observer)
    -REVIEW : of In America (Isobel Montgomery, The Guardian)
N.B.  Andrew Sullivan recently (10/30/01) posted a great Tom Wolfe quote about Susan Sontag :

    The white race is the cancer of human history? Who was this woman? Who and what? An
    anthropological epidemiologist? A renowned authority on the history of cultures throughout the
    world, a synthesizer of the magnitude of a Max Weber, a Joachim Wach, a Sir James Frazer, an
    Arnold Toynbee? Actually, she was just another scribbler who spent her life signing up for protest
    meetings and lumbering to the podium encumbered by her prose style, which had a handicapped
    parking sticker valid at Partisan Review. Perhaps she was exceptionally hell-bent on illustrating
    McLuhan's line about indignation endowing the idiot with dignity, but otherwise she was just a
    typical American intellectual of the post-World War II period.
        -In The Land of the Rococo Marxists

WEBSITES :
    -ESSAY : AMERICA-HATERS WITHIN (John Podhoretz, NY Post, September 19  2001)
    -ESSAY : The New Sensibility : Reflections on a cultural revolution (Roger Kimball, The New Criterion; February 1998)
    -Arguing the World -- The New York Intellectuals  (PBS)
    -REVIEW : of Where the Stress Falls (WILLIAM DERESIEWICZ, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of 'Where the Stress Falls: Essays' by Susan Sontag (Scott McLemee, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW : of WHERE THE STRESS FALLS: Essays, By Susan Sontag (HILARY
MANTEL, LA Times)
    -REVIEW : of Where the Stress Falls (RICHARD HAUER COSTA, Houston Chronicle)

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