Sontag

Her Life and Work
Narrated by: Tavia Gilbert
Length: 22 hrs and 4 mins
4.1 out of 5 stars (51 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The definitive portrait of one of the American Century’s most towering intellectuals: her writing and her radical thought, her public activism and her hidden private face.

No writer is as emblematic of the American 20th century as Susan Sontag. Mythologized and misunderstood, lauded and loathed, a girl from the suburbs who became a proud symbol of cosmopolitanism, Sontag left a legacy of writing on art and politics, feminism and homosexuality, celebrity and style, medicine and drugs, radicalism and Fascism and Freudianism and Communism and Americanism, that forms an indispensable key to modern culture. She was there when the Cuban Revolution began, and when the Berlin Wall came down; in Vietnam under American bombardment, in wartime Israel, in besieged Sarajevo. She was in New York when artists tried to resist the tug of money - and when many gave in. No writer negotiated as many worlds; no serious writer had as many glamorous lovers. Sontag tells these stories and examines the work upon which her reputation was based. It explores the agonizing insecurity behind the formidable public face: the broken relationships, the struggles with her sexuality, that animated - and undermined - her writing. And it shows her attempts to respond to the cruelties and absurdities of a country that had lost its way, and her conviction that fidelity to high culture was an activism of its own. 

Utilizing hundreds of interviews conducted from Maui to Stockholm and from London to Sarajevo - Sontag is the first book based on the writer’s restricted archives, and on access to many people who have never before spoken about Sontag, including Annie Leibovitz. It is a definitive portrait - a great American novel in the form of a biography.

©2019 Benjamin Moser (P)2019 HarperAudio

What listeners say about Sontag

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Cloying voice

A long book. Too long. I stuck with this performance to the end, but I found myself annoyed and put on edge in each of the almost 30 hours by the cloying intensity of the narrator. It is no small feat to pronounce all the foreign words and proper nouns in a book such as this. High marks there. But there was an insinuating, know-it-all and too-pointed tone that robbed much of the book of its staying power and stole away its cosmopolitan nuance. The experience was like biography on coke. For books this long, please select performers with a more mellow approach..

14 people found this helpful

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The Narrator is Killing Me!

Incredibly labored narration. Has the narrator listened to Sontag's voice before? Every line sounds fraught with anxiety but also something weirdly sexual as if on the verge of orgasm every 5 minutes. Believe it or not this isn't helpful....

9 people found this helpful

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Regarding the boundaries of others

I was appalled by this book. A combination of pretentious pedantry and nasty gossip , it offers an offensive and intrusive picture of Sontag’s personal life that she would have loathed. One of America’s leading intellectuals deserves a better biography than this. And the narrator’s overdone fake French pronunciation is a bit irritating. For shame, Moser.

14 people found this helpful

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I wanted another 22 hours

I adored this book. Philosophy! Queerness! Gossip! Art! Love! Loss! Sickness! Death! War! I sobbed when it was over. I wanted more. Benjamin Moser has summoned controversy over the way he took liberties crafting Sontag's inner world, but the reader can sort through what is slippery and what is solid easily enough. I deeply appreciate his portrait of how this writer came to be a flawed but brilliant human AND a flawed but brilliant artist.

6 people found this helpful

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Great psychological biography

Wonderful way to view history from the 60’s forward. Sontag is compelling, marvelous, awful and courageous. A psychological biography of the first order. The relationships and people she made & loved - amazing and so many willing to share their experiences with her. Pleased that Moser won’t let her molder in the closet. What a gal she was.

5 people found this helpful

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Gossipy, best for Sontag fans, Narrator: Arghhh

I'm not sure why I decided to listen to this book in the first place since I've never read anything by Sontag. I had heard of her so perhaps I bought the book to learn more about this sort-of famous intellectual. Anyone who has read and understands her work, and has familiarity with Sontag's influences, may find it interesting. Not sure about anyone else. I'm sorry to hear that Sontag had poor hygiene. I wish I didn't know that. As for the narrator, I was relieved to find that other reviewers found her as annoying as I did although it wasn't bad enough to induce me to quit listening, which I've done with other books. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what it is about this woman's voice... it's kind of gulping and quivering, particularly when she nears the end of a sentence, injecting a bit more drama than necessary and it gets annoying at times. Another reviewer said it sounds like she's having an orgasm. I wouldn't go that far. The worst aspect of the narration is the French pronunciation, which is almost inappropriately authentic, almost as if she's showing off, as if she wished she could read the entire book in French. Her reading of French phrases, titles, names and geographic locations was performed with a level of relish so irritating I considering hurling my phone across the room. I was so annoyed, in fact, that I called my ex just to complain about this narrator's habit of over-enunciating French. He admitted that he also finds that trait grating, so much so that he refused to let me play sections of the book, thereby depriving me of the opportunity to commiserate with him. But I digress. I still have a bit more to listen to; I think we're past the French section but part of me is bracing for the next mention of Sartre. I literally could scream.

3 people found this helpful

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Narrator

Couldn’t get through the book as I couldn’t listen to the narrator for another second. Really disappointed. I think the book is probably very good!

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terribly grating narrator! ugh

returning it. why do they do that? i usually am very careful, but was excited bc i went to school w her daughter. What a disapointment.

2 people found this helpful

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Revealing Bio on a Superlative Life

Sunsan Sontag’s essays have been a strong influence on the way I view our culture and my medium, photography. It was enriching, though brutal, to learn more about her life. Author Benjamin Moser speaks candidly and with great insight about the life of a remarkable intellectual of our generation, a unique voice. A great listen to anyone interested in contemporary culture.