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Book Title: Styles of Radical Will|
The author of the book: Susan Sontag
Date of issue: March 6th 2002
ISBN 13: 9780312420215
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 972 KB
Read full description of the books Styles of Radical Will:She sounds so much like Trilling! Trilling’s moral gravity—with a haughty “Gallic” abstraction I find utterly irresistible. Sontag’s heyday as an intellectual pinup occurred before I was even born—but I get it. Her critical voice seems the perfectly oracular emanation of the book-lined apartments of the self-consciously "edgy" tastemaking intelligentsia--the dandified apartments perched above the garbage and graffiti of 1970s Manhattan, so ambivalently described by Edmund White, a ragamuffin freelancer awkward in those fair courts. (White preferred to flop in roachy squalor by day and suck off truck drivers down at the docks by night, and avoided romantic involvement with Sontag coeval Richard Howard because he didn’t want a joint subscription to the opera, "didn’t want to grow a little paunch and discuss Roland Barthes with the same man who was fucking me.”) She's got her Gauloise, the latest New York Review of Books, a stack of Gallimard new releases...
I didn’t read the essays on Godard and Bergman, because I haven’t seen any of the films mentioned therein—though I “read and like” Goodreads reviews of books I haven’t read, might never read, so perhaps the explanation is that I’m lazy and just don’t care about Godard and Bergman. “The Aesthetics of Silence” and “The Pornographic Imagination” are meaty and re-readable; she deeply discusses the secularization of spirituality and the nearly religious "total" ambitions of modernism. Her high-handed chastisement of American critics for not reading more Sade and Bataille is a Greatest Hit. “Thinking Against Oneself: Reflections on Cioran” won’t blow any minds, but it’s good she promoted him so brilliantly to American audiences, back in the day. “What’s Happening in America (1966)” is shrill and jejune—its famous line: “the white race is the cancer of history”—but “Trip to Hanoi” is not. This seventy-page monster essay, which I feared might be the literary cousin of Jane Fonda’s truthfist mugshot, makes up for a barrenness of characterization and descriptive color with plenty of fearless moral-intellectual self-scrutiny. And as I peruse “What’s Happening in America (1966)” I do find some admirable things, like her remark that modern American life “brutalizes the senses, making gray neurotics of most of us, and perverse spiritual athletes and strident self-transcenders of the best of us.” Perverse spiritual athletes and strident self-transcenders perfectly evokes a kind of intellectual ambition rare among today’s bookish. In The Farewell Symphony Edmund White talks about coming home drunk from cruising bars and sitting up with one eye closed to focus on some Adorno or a Bartok score. In City Boy he says that his generation of “strident self-transcenders” and defensively arty provincial pilgrims to NYC was always studying for a test that never came:
In my twenties if even a tenth reading of Mallarmé failed to yield up its treasures, the fault was mine, not his. If my eyes swooned shut while I read The Sweet Cheat Gone, Proust’s pacing was never called into question, just my intelligence and dedication and sensitivity. And I still entertain these sacralizing preconceptions about high art. I still admire what is difficult, though I now recognize it as a “period” taste and that my generation was the last to give a damn. Though we were atheists, we were, strangely enough, preparing ourselves for God’s great Quiz Show; we had to know everything because we were convinced we would be tested on it—in our next life.
Read information about the authorJewish American literary critic, theorist, novelist, and filmmaker.
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