Customer Reviews: At the Same Time: Essays and Speeches
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on March 15, 2007
Reading this collection of essays is an exhilarating experience for anyone who cares about the ethical value of literature, as Sontag herself would say, the "seriousness" of literature. For Sontag was nothing if not "serious". This is not to say humorless, but always fully engaged, grappling with issues that she would return to time and again if her views changed or to clarify a point.

These issues, exemplified by this sterling collection of essays, range from the political to the moral to the literary (she would probably say the latter encompasses the former two). While her outspokeness frequently won her enemies, and her bluntness can be seen at times as insensitive, she was always looking inward to create a public person that she could admire, a strenuous egotism.

Readers of this volume can find her championing writers she feels have been neglected, criticizing the United States foreign policies and most notoriously, evaluating the attacks of 9/11 in yet further clarifications of her opinions.

The loss of this woman is incalculable; even when one disagrees with her(and at some points I am sure you will) you will never fail to find her challenging you to define your own point of view. Her aphorisms expand in widening concentric circles of thought, broadening your vistas with clarity and compassion.
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VINE VOICEon April 23, 2007
Susan Sontag was one of the most insightful and intelligent essayists of the last century. Her death is a tremendous loss to American Arts and Letters. At the Same Time is a collection of postumously published essays and speeches from the last few years. The collection reads like much of her work: articulate, precise, and always intellectually and morally "serious." I particularly liked her essay on Dostoyevsky and on translation, her clarity and depth of thought are truly reminiscent of Walter Benjamin here. I found her speeches a bit dry and contrived, not the form she's most comfortable in clearly. As always, she champions a number of neglected works of literature, one Russian, one American. Additionally, you will find excellent essays on 9/11 and the horrible events that unfolded in Iraq. Sontag's indignation is appropriate and timely.

Not a collection that is likely to eclipse Against Interpretation or Under the Sign of Saturn, but definitely worthwhile for all readers.
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on September 29, 2014
This posthumous collection of essays by one of the most brilliant and active thinkers of our time is a precious reminder of the value of sane and honest voice in this time of confusing and exploited communications. Her interests are vast and her compassion is as remarkable as her intellect. What most impressed me is her love for and faith in literature as a reader as well as a writer, her endless devotion to being the conscientious writer to be the sane mind and clear voice against the ubiquitous superlatives by organizational agendas and deliberate distortions. "To have access to literature, world literature, way to escape the prison of national vanity, of philistinism, of compulsory provincialism, of inane schooling, of imperfect destinies and bad luck. Literature was the pass port to enter a larger life; that is the zone of freedom. Literature was freedom. Especially in a time in which the values of reading and inwardness are so strenuously challenged, literature is freedom."
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VINE VOICEon March 8, 2012
This collection of essays covers material prepared late in Susan Sontag's career. The piece on Leonid Tsypkin, an unheralded, virtually unpublished, Soviet writer, entitled 'Living Dostoyevsky' is very fine. Tsypkin's last work, a novel, was published in America seven days before he died of a heart attack. The title of the novel is SUMMER IN BADEN-BADEN. Tyspkin took care to get his facts right. A source of Tsypkin on Dostoyevsky was Leonid Grossman, (1888-1965). Tsypkin's great pssion was Kafka.

Victor Serge's novel, THE CASE OF COMRADE TULAYEV,was published a year after Victor Serge's death. He was a valiant dissident Communist. Sontag believed Victor Serge resembled Simone Weil in his rectitude. For Serge, fiction was truth. The truths of a novel differ from the truths of an historian. Trotsky accused Victor Serge of being more anarchist than Marxist.

Susan Sontag was not in new York City at the time of nine eleven. She was in Berlin. Returning, she read the heartbreaking biographies of the victims appearing in the NEW YORK TIMES. She believed the principal figures in leadership positions were at a linguistic loss. She rejected prevalent models of reaction to the event that we are at war or our civilization is superior. A year after the event the Bush administration decreed that the U.S. was at war, but it was a war without end.

Sontag believed that not calling what took place at Abu Graib torture was as outrageous as not calling what took place in Rwanda between the Tutsis and the Hutus genocide. The photographs represented the fundamental corruption of the occupation.

The essay entitled 'The Conscience of Words' notes that to speak truthfully about literature it is necessary to talk about paradox. Literature is a plural system of standards. In 'Literature is Freedom' Susan Sontag comments on the latent antagonism between Europe and America. Europe is regarded as socialist. The difference between most European countries and the U.S. is that the U.S. is a religious society.

A novel is a creation of a voice and of a world it is said in 'The Novelist and Moral Rasoning. The novel is a journey. Endings in a novel confer a kind of liberty. Storytelling by a novelist involves an ethical element. Writing fiction is a solitary task. The forward to this collection by Susan Sontag's son, David Rieff, stresses his mother's avidity, her interest in everything. For her there was a joy of living and a joy of knowing. These last writings are excellent.
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on March 7, 2014
Susan Sontag has the ability to guide us with her intellect and also touch us with her heart - it's a rare gift - but she talks to us intimately and educatively and her words are as resonant now as they were then - we miss your thought leadership Susan Sontag
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VINE VOICEon July 11, 2009
Well, Sontag would never have been given the chaired Professorship of Fun at Cornell or Duke or John Hopkins. American intellectuals have left her behind, along with Gore Vidal and Edmund Wilson. Sontag took literature seriously, in contrast with those who see the enterprise of literary creativity as no better than other forms of expressions such as comic books and pornography. Instead, Sontag hangs with the likes of Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin, the serious Germans, of darker times, Nazi times, when the going was good, if you took literature seriously. These essays are not classics; they are occasional pieces, placed together with acceptance speeches and several pieces of journalism written in response to 9/11. In old age, Sontag became insufferably arrogant, a snob's snob, given to calling people stupid, and falling for that absolutely deadly conceit of the New York intellectual, namely, the belief that people living outside Manhattan are backward and ignorant. Sontag seems to have been preoccupied by thoughts of cancer and war for a good twenty years and this makes her unusually grave for an American, perhaps unique among American feminists whose pursuit of status and sexual pleasure distract them from bigger topics. Sontag, ever the European, stayed with her grim task, like the Marxists in New York during the forties who stuck with their studies of Nazi Germany and returned home as fast as they could once the war was over. She's always been more interested in knowing what makes the world tick than in learning how to get off. All of this in the end has resulted in a refined bitterness, a remarkably narrow literary scope, and a great moral passion. Sontag is very good on the subject of "the war on terror." Her writings, however brief, on torture are very sharp. She is nothing less than brilliant on the photographs of torture emerging from the Iraqi prisons, taken by amateur soldier photographers as souvenir snapshots. She is the only writer that I know of who has seen all of this as part of the American culture of sleeze, not an aberration, but as much as part of our daily lives as Jerry Springer and Oprah. Sontag will be missed, but she lives in that very long line of nonacademic intellectuals who never allowed themselves to think that the university is a place of learning.
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on April 28, 2016
First thing I read from Sontag and I enjoyed it even if she is a bit acerbic in places and not forgiving of people not as gifted as she was lucky enough to be.,
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on March 3, 2015
Ssusan Sontag was a revelation for me and I hope to read more about and by her!
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on October 20, 2008
I had never read her work. Shame on me. I truly enjoyed it. Saying she was smart and interesting
is an understatement.
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on January 11, 2010
This book is a medoicre collection of late-era Sontag. It is basically a few book reviews and some political comments on 9/11. As you can imagine, these ideas seem a bit outdated. Criticizing the term "war on terror", for example, is already old hat. Nothing here grabbed me.
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