Death of Susan Sontag

by Henry Farrell on December 28, 2004

Susan Sontag is dead from leukaemia; the New York Times has an “obituary here”:



Teekay 12.28.04 at 8:42 pm

The Times obit says:

“Other critics were less enthralled. Some branded Ms. Sontag an unoriginal thinker, a popularizer with a gift for aphorism who could boil down difficult writers for mass consumption.”

What’s wrong with that? You have to be obscure and opaque in order to be a serious intellectual? I’d say this is the Times at its best — snooty and unenlightening.


bob mcmanus 12.28.04 at 9:13 pm

Regarding Torture:Abu Ghraib

I will link to what I thought was good and important recent work, in case anybody missed it. Sontag and Mailer and Vidal (I am probably missing someone) were the intellectual left of my high-middlebrow youth. I remember some line during the sixties about how people on the coasts who thought America opposed the Vietnam war understood neither America or the war. That gained a certain respect from this flyover inhabitant.


New Yorker 12.28.04 at 10:20 pm

Gd rddnc.


Maria 12.28.04 at 10:31 pm

New Yorker – do you really think (presumably) disagreeing with Sontag’s views justifies making such an obnoxious and unpleasant comment? Think before you type.


Nicholas Packwood 12.28.04 at 10:58 pm

I found plenty to disagree with in Susan Sontag’s views. “AIDS and Its Metaphors”, however, remains one of the most important books I read in the 80s. And I think people will be reading “On Photography” a hundred years from now.


Ophelia Benson 12.28.04 at 11:03 pm



fyreflye 12.28.04 at 11:13 pm

She was hated in her heyday by the same kind of people who now hate Mrs Clinton and for much the same reason. You do not have to “agree” with a brilliant critic to see that she is brilliant.


Bosko 12.28.04 at 11:29 pm

The LA Times does a better job than the NY Times on Sontag’s obit – which, I guess, says a lot – about much.,0,2512373.story?coll=la-home-obituaries


Arthur Durant 12.29.04 at 12:09 am

Susan Sontag emanated from the “upper and lower crust” of american intellectualism and social thought. This beacon of light and wit will be sorely missed, especially in light of the “dumming down” that we are witnessing in this society.


Ophelia Benson 12.29.04 at 12:21 am

The NY Times wasn’t that bad. They phoned Arthur Danto…

(Oh well I shouldn’t say that though, because I haven’t read the whole thing. Never mind. Just a bit of credit for phoning Danto.)


Peter 12.29.04 at 1:39 am

“some line during the sixties about how people on the coasts who thought America opposed the Vietnam war understood neither America or the war.”

That’s a great line. Does anyone know the exact source?


bob mcmanus 12.29.04 at 2:12 am

“That’s a great line. Does anyone know the exact source?”

Well it has been more than thirty years, and I was paraphrasing , so forgive inaccuracy.

But I am pretty sure you will find the idea in Styles of Radical Will, the essay “Whats Happening in America(1966)”. I am fairly certain of the book, but there is another essay called “Trip to Hanoi”.


i.iordanov 12.29.04 at 10:36 am


Peter 12.29.04 at 3:08 pm

Bob: Thank you for the sources.


fyreflye 12.29.04 at 4:22 pm

Another excellent obit in the San Francisco Chronicle:
Who would have thought of Sontag as a California Girl?


pedro 12.29.04 at 4:27 pm

I took a course on Ingmar Bergman a couple of years ago, and I remember quite vividly how immensely superior Sontag’s insights into the film ‘Persona’ were to those of any other piece of criticism I read in the course.


John Williams 12.30.04 at 2:23 am

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Anderson 12.30.04 at 4:25 pm

So now Republicans are against vowels? Why? Because there aren’t any in the original Old Testament? Sheesh.

I think Sontag was over the top on some of her Vietnam-era criticisms, but (1) that wasn’t unique and (2) it was a stupid, ill-fought, ill-conceived war. Let’s excoriate the people Halberstam depicted in The Best and the Brightest, not the Sontags of the world.


Whte man 01.02.05 at 3:39 pm

Brilliant she might have been…but why this obscure hate against white people. The famous line from “What’s happening in America” that the white race is the worst cancer ever upon the face og the earth. How come she got away with this? Consider these words being said about her people, the Jews. That would have been quite a different thing..

I wont miss someone comparing my race with cancer.



sm 01.05.05 at 3:30 am

“How come she got away with this?”

Well, this week alone she’s been repeatedly hammered for it.

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