Susan Sontag

Was Susan Sontag the Last Public Intellectual? Nancy Kates on Making ‘Regarding Susan Sontag’

Trying to capture the range and brilliance of the late Susan Sontag, perhaps our most illuminating public intellectual, is a heady task, but documentarian Nancy Kates does a wonderful job of it in her documentary Regarding Susan Sontag. I went into this movie seeing Sontag as an idea, a voice on a page, and I came out of it with far more clarity about who Sontag was as a woman. Not just the quick-witted, sharp-barbed thinker who was able to clarify and elucidate our greatest achievements and most horrifying fears; she was, above all, a person, with all that entails — difficult and prickly, brave and curious, maddening and enlightening. Regarding Susan Sontag premieres on HBO Monday, December 8, and I took the chance to talk to Kates about how the documentary came together. … Read More

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35 Susan Sontag Quotes on Art, Writing, and Life

Susan Sontag’s prose style captivated readers, and her assertive critical stance never failed to invite controversy. This month marks the tenth anniversary of the author’s passing, and the documentary Regarding Susan Sontag airs on HBO tonight. In honor of both occasions, we revisited her journals and books to find some of Sontag’s most thought-provoking quotes on everything from relationships and art to war and pop… Read More

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Kim Kardashian’s Naked ‘Paper’ Magazine Cover Is About Camp, Not Sex

If sex is funny, then the butt is its punchline. Kim Kardashian’s greased-up naked ass coming out of a dress that looks like a trash bag on the cover of Paper Magazine isn’t best understood as wet-dream fodder, though I’m sure many young men will add it to their fapping collections alongside the sex tape that made Kardashian a household name. Rather, Kim K’s cover is a glorious joke, the most spectacular bit of trolling in the “Year of the Ass,” a declaration that says, “I am willingly objectifying myself, but I’m not taking myself too seriously.” It is pure camp. In fact, it’s a brilliant example of that sensibility — and on that count, more credit is due to Paper than to Kim, though it certainly portrays a different side of her too (HAR HAR). … Read More

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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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