Susan Sontag

50 Essays Guaranteed to Make You a Better Person

It’s hard to be a person in the world today — or, really, any day, but today’s what we’ve got. Humans are striving creatures, and also empathetic ones, so most of us are always looking for an opportunity to improve ourselves, even in tiny, literary ways. We’ve already established that novels can make you a better person, but of course, novels also take you down a long winding road to get there. If you’re looking for a more direct shot to the heart, try an essay. After the jump, you’ll find 50 essays more or less guaranteed to make you a better person — or at least a better-read one — some recommended by notables of the literary and literary nonfiction world, some recommended by yours truly, incessant consumer of the written word. Don’t see the essay that changed your life? Please do add it to the list. … Read More

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Notes on a Budding Public Intellectual: An Excerpt From Daniel Schreiber’s Susan Sontag Biography

The first biography to be published after the writer and public intellectual’s death in 2004, Daniel Schreiber’s Susan Sontag has been translated from German into English, for release in America by Northwestern University Press, at a time when its subject’s star is the brightest it’s been since her passing. With her legacy well established, a new generation of writers is looking to Sontag as the gold standard for cultural criticism. … Read More

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Susan Hashtag, Oh No She Didion’t, and Other Punny Illustrations of Cultural Icons

Catherine Pearson’s Vaguely Important People series offers irreverent twists on subjects most would consider very important: from W.B. Yeats to Susan Sontag, Pearson tweaks art museum and college bookshelf staples into playful, pun-laden illustrations. Considering Sontag’s views on photography, we don’t imagine she’d be too happy with her portrait as a selfie-taking hashtag addict, but along with “DJ W.B. Beatz” and “Jane Birkinstock,” she’s certainly in good company. All of Pearson’s prints are available for purchase here; click through for a look at a sampling of her VIPs. … Read More

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10 Great Books by Women That James Franco Desperately Needs to Read

When you write about culture on a pretty constant basis, James Franco is sometimes like a good old friend who shows up exactly when you need him, always there to say or do something that you can write about. In terms of books, which I believe is Franco’s preferred side gig to his acting, Franco should be commended because there are few celebrities aside from maybe Oprah or now Stephen Colbert who do as much to help more casual readers discover new writers, and that’s a good thing. But… … Read More

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30 Writers’ Invaluable Advice to Graduates

Graduation season is fast approaching, the time of the year when some of our favorite writers are tasked with summing up the wisdom to be accrued from the process of growing up in ten succinct minutes of witty truth. These days, a successful graduation speech has the very real chance of going viral, and then living forever as a book: from David Foster Wallace’s This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, About Living a Compassionate Life to Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art, the best graduation speeches are finding a new life. This crop includes the brand-new Congratulations, By the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness by George Saunders, a pretty-in-print encapsulation of his 2013 Syracuse Graduation speech. It’s reason enough to collect 30 of the best, wisest, and pithiest pieces of advice from the greatest writers to attempt the graduation… Read More

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10 of the Greatest Essays on Writing Ever Written

If there’s one topic that writers can be counted on to tackle at least once in their working lives, it’s writing itself. A good thing too, especially for all those aspiring writers out there looking for a little bit of guidance. For some winter inspiration and honing of your craft, here you’ll find ten great essays on writing, from the classic to the contemporary, from the specific to the all-encompassing. Note: there are many, many, many great essays on writing. Bias has been extended here to personal favorites and those available to read online. Also of note but not included: full books on the subject like Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Stephen King’s On Writing, and Ron Carlson’s Ron Carlson Writes a Story, or, in a somewhat different sense, David Shields’ Reality Hunger, for those looking for a longer commitment. Read on, and add your own favorite essays on writing to the list in the comments. … Read More

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Camp Is for Everyone: R. Kelly and the Evolution of Trash

I don’t care much for R. Kelly. It’s probably not a huge shock if you know me personally or follow me on the Internet — “Tyler Coates hates everything that is wonderful and good!” — but in this case it’s less about hatred and more about apathy. Sure, “Ignition (Remix)” has always made me cringe to the point that I’ve described it as the song I hate the most (there’s something about the phrase “freakin’ weekend” that really gets under my skin; it’s the opposite of “cellar door” for me), but for the most part my hesitation about R. Kelly comes from not being able to take him seriously — there’s something about his oeuvre that seems too jokey and deliberately dumb. Through the process of wondering why I wasn’t a fan, I might have cracked the code: R. Kelly is camp for straight people. … Read More

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50 Books to Inspire Artists of All Kinds

Today marks the release of one of the most long-awaited novels in recent memory: Donna Tartt’s third novel, the glorious, sprawling, Dickens-esque romp The Goldfinch. The book is backboned by its eponymous painting, and much concerned with art of all kinds, so to celebrate its release, and to suggest a little artistic inspiration for those who’ve already read it (or will have in about three days), we’ve put together a list of 50 books for artists: to inspire, to entertain, to shake up the system. Some of these books are about visual art, some are visual art in themselves, some just strike us as the kind of thing that might keep an artist up at… Read More

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20 Photos of Famous Authors in Awesome Costumes

Halloween is fast approaching, and if you’re the writerly (read: introverted, inside-cat) type, you may be experiencing some anxiety about dressing up in a costume and walking the streets. But take heart: some of your very favorite authors have been known to don a costume from time to time, too. So it must be cool, right? This slideshow is also appropriate for those itching to wear a literary costume this year but who have already worn out their Poe ravens and DFW bandannas: go meta and dress as one of your favorite authors in one of their costumes. Click through to see some amazing writers dressed to the… Read More

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The 25 Greatest Essay Collections of All Time

This week marks the release of Aleksandar Hemon’s excellent book of personal essays, The Book of My Lives, which we loved, and which we’re convinced deserves a place in the literary canon. To that end, we were inspired to put together our list of the greatest essay collections of all time, from the classic to the contemporary, from the personal to the critical. In making our choices, we’ve steered away from posthumous omnibuses and multi-author compilations, and given what might be undue weight to our favorite writers (as one does). Click through to see our nominations for the 25 greatest essay collections of all… Read More

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