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Sontag: Her Life and Work


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About the Author

Benjamin Moser was born in Houston. He is the author of Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector, a finalist for the National Book Critics' Circle Award and a New York Times Notable Book. For his work bringing Clarice Lispector to international prominence, he received Brazil's first State Prize for Cultural Diplomacy. He has published translations from French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Dutch. A former books columnist for Harper's Magazine and The New York Times Book Review, he has also written for The New Yorker, Conde Nast Traveler, and The New York Review of Books.


"Moser's accomplishment here is breathtaking: it includes an extraordinary knowledge of the subject, her milieu, her writings, her ideas, and her friends and family, beautiful prose, extraordinary insights, a capacity to understand her driven emotional life and her stellar intellectual life."--Rebecca Solnit, author of Call Them By Their True Names and Men Explain Things to Me
"Sontag's influence on aesthetics, writing and the wider culture is almost impossible to overstate and Moser's monumental biography reveals the surprisingly tender, insecure, and intellectually dedicated story of one the most remarkable literary figures of twentieth century America. She stands reclaimed for our century in this definitive, fiercely intelligent work."--Stephen Fry, author of The Ode Less Travelled
"An astonishing page-turner, the last word on Susan Sontag. I can't imagine the necessity of another book about her life."--Sigrid Nunez, author of The Friend
"Sontag made and broke the mold of American twentieth century public intellectual. In this long-awaited, brilliant biography, Moser shows us how to read Sontag--and, by extension, her times--and reveals the extents and limits of her genius. His psychologically nuanced critical study is written with sang-froid and compassion."--Chris Kraus, author of After Kathy Acker and I Love Dick
"Moser brings his iconic subject to life in this gripping, insightful and supremely stylish biography... revealing at every turn the vital, complicated, imperfect human being behind the formidable public intellectual."--Edmund Gordon, author of The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography
"If it's already difficult to imagine American culture without Susan Sontag's contributions to it, it may soon become difficult to imagine her life without Benjamin Moser's account of it. A significant life like Sontag's demands a significant biography. That demand has now been incisively, extravagantly met."--Michael Cunningham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours
"A comprehensive, intimate--and surely definitive--biography of writer, provocateur, and celebrity intellectual Susan Sontag . . . Sympathetic and sharply astute . . . A nuanced, authoritative portrait of a legendary artist."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Don't be fooled by the length. This book is compulsive reading: moving, maddening, ridiculous and beautiful scenes from the life of Susan Sontag, and the epochs she traversed. Moser has a true and deep love for his subject, a love unafraid to be truthful, and it shows."--Rachel Kushner, author of The Flamethrowers
"Who better than distinguished critic Moser, National Book Critics Circle finalist for Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector, to write a biography of Susan Sontag?"--Library Journal (starred review)
"A landmark achievement--astonishing in its scope, brilliant in its perceptiveness, and a joy to read. It deserves to be counted among the best nonfiction books of 2019."--Jewish Book Council
"Deft and sometimes dishy . . . If Moser's Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector was indispensable in greatly expanding the Brazilian writer's profile and readership, especially in the US, then Sontag accomplishes something just as valuable: It deepens our understanding of a world-renowned eminence." --BookForum
"Utterly riveting and consistently insightful . . . The book takes this larger-than-life intellectual powerhouse--formidable, intimidating, often stubbornly impersonal in her work--and makes her life-size again . . . fascinating."--Leslie Jamison, The New Republic
"A towering figure like Susan Sontag deserves a towering tome, and Moser's 700-plus-page biography of the iconic cultural critic delivers . . . this blockbuster a la Stacy Schiff's Cleopatra is both granular and grand--an opus fit for the writer-philosopher who 'created the mold, and then she broke it.'"--O Magazine, "18 Must-Read Books of Fall 2019"
"Monumental and stylish."--The Atlantic
"Brilliant . . . We need [Sontag] now, more than ever, and this biography keeps her defiantly alive: argumentative, willful, often right, always interesting, encouraging us to up our game as we watch her at the top of hers."--The Guardian
"Moser has managed the near-impossible feat of capturing Sontag in all of her dark brilliance and pointed contradictions."--Interview
"Fascinating . . . Moser's biography of Sontag is an education in Sontag, but also in what Sontag wanted and why, as well as an education in the worlds that inspired her and fought her."--Los Angeles Times
"Moser's epic portrait of the iconic writer and critic winds through American history, entwining its subject to pivotal points in our culture and reshaping her legacy in the process."--Entertainment Weekly, "20 New Books to Read in September"
"There can be no doubting the brilliance - the sheer explanatory vigour - of Moser's biography . . . a triumph of the virtues of seriousness and truth-telling that Susan Sontag espoused again and again but was conspicuously and often quite consciously unable to force herself to live by."--The New Statesman
"Persuasive and illuminating . . . does what a biography ought to do: it enriches our understanding of its subject."--Los Angeles Review of Books
"Enlightening and finely tuned . . . because his tone is so reserved, so disinterested in passing judgement, none of what he writes about comes off as dishy or inappropriate. More to the point, his critical distance from his subject makes him an echo of Sontag herself."--Mark Athitakis, On the Seawall
"A landmark biography, the first major reintroduction of an incomparable literary heavyweight to the public since her death."--The New York Times
"Moser is a tenacious biographer, keeping a tight hold on his narrative and reaching firm conclusions. He is very tough-minded, as Sontag herself was at her best, and his mind is like Sontag's in that he can make very sharp turns and land decisive blows."--Nylon Magazine
[Sontag] was avid, ardent, driven, generous, narcissistic, Olympian, obtuse, maddening, sometimes loveable but not very likeable. Moser has had the confidence and erudition to bring all these contradictory aspects together in a biography fully commensurate with the scale of his subject. He is also a gifted, compassionate writer.--Elaine Showalter, The Times Literary Supplement
&#8220Through it all, Moser tends to strike an effective balance between the kind of immersive detail Sontag specialists will eagerly expect and the kind of broader narrative momentum that ordinary readers will appreciate (and that might turn a few of them into Sontag specialists, always a pleasant side effect)."--Christian Science Monitor

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