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Styles of Radical Will Paperback – March 6, 2002

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Editorial Reviews


Susan Sontag's essays are great interpretations and even fulfillments of what is really going on. (Carlos Fuentes)

[Susan Sontag] is one of the most interesting and valuable critics we possess, a writer from whom it's continually possible to learn. (Richard Gilman, The New Republic)

She has come to symbolize the writer and thinker in many variations: as analyst, rhapsodist, and roving eye, as public scold and portable conscience. (Time magazine)

Miss Sontag emerges from Styles of Radical Will . . . as an open and vulnerable intellect, a consciousness in process of transformation . . . Her first essay, 'The Aesthetics of Silence' is a brilliant and important account of Western tradition of artistic revolt against language, against thinking, against consciousness. (Robert Sklar, The Nation)

It should be remembered that Miss Sontag has now written four of the most valuable intellectual documents of the past ten years: 'Against Interpretation,' 'Notes on Camp,' The Aesthetics of Silence,' and 'Trip to Hanoi.' In the world in which she's chosen to live, she continues to be the best there is. (The New York Times Book Review)

From the Publisher

In her second essay collection, Sontag "displays an enlightened, energetic intellect exploring the margins of contemporary consciousness."-THE New York Time S --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (March 6, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312420218
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312420215
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #227,045 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Susan Sontag was born in Manhattan in 1933 and studied at the universities of Chicago, Harvard and Oxford. She is the author of four novels, a collection of stories, several plays, and six books of essays, among them Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors. Her books are translated into thirty-two languages. In 2001 she was awarded the Jerusalem Prize for the body of her work, and in 2003 she received the Prince of Asturias Prize for Literature and the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. She died in December 2004.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By C. McQuain on July 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
Long before she entered her current middlebrow-novelist phase, Susan Sontag was one of America's most important critics. A tireless crusader for the idea that the distinction between "high" and "low" culture is best forgotten, and that creating a "new sensibility" which is able to take in everything from pop music to avant-garde art, is essential, Sontag had an incredibly learned, original sensibility that was nevertheless makes for an enjoyable, engaging read.
Styles of Radical Will (originally published in 1969) is, perhaps, Sontag's most triumphantly expansive collection of essays, covering film (Bergman, Godard), politics (the famous "Trip to Hanoi" essay) and philosophy ("'Thinking Against Oneself:' Reflections on Cioran"). Sontag explores each of her subjects in a nuanced, objective, often opinionated, and always lively way.
Nearly all of the essays in Styles of Radical Will stand the test of time because Sontag's approach is irreproachably modern (she is certainly America's mother of modernism/postmodernism) in its absolute refusal to look at her subjects in any easy or expected way; Sontag is not afraid to criticize the banalities of some of our most celebrated culture-heroes, while propounding not what is "...embalmed, immortal, unequivocally (and merely) 'beautiful'," but work that retains its "...youthful power to offend, to appear 'ugly,' irresponsible, frivolous, pretentious, empty." In other words, Sontag looks beyond the immediate, easy, "acceptable" perception.
Styles of Radical Will is a treasure and a touchstone for any reader looking for a deep, invigorating, and unconventional exploration of culture through modern eyes.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Steiner VINE VOICE on December 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
One of Sontag's earlier collections of aesthetic essays, including insightful reflections on the work of Jean-Luc Godard, Ingmar Bergman, and some philosophy and politics such as an essay on Cioran. Sontag's writing is always lucid and intelligent; she had the rare gift of being able to express her complex and specified perceptions of art and their relation to the world. Perhaps, the most exciting essay in this volume is her account of her solidarity mission in North Vietnam, titled Trip to Hanoi. Here she reveals the sociological/political dynamics of the Vietnamese communists and their struggle to establish an independent country in the face of US bombardment and aggression. Sontag was correct in her adamant dismissal of US attempts to recapture the region. However, Sontag is not concerned about political correctness; she doesn't romanticize the Vietnamese too overtly. She indicates that the political system may be just and appropriate, yet she maintains that she values her country as a cultural and artistic resource despite its imperialistic and wasteful character. Occasionally Sontag misses the mark in her criticism of American-European culture, calling the white race a "cancer," but maybe she was right. Also included, is an interesting essay comparing theater to film, in which she argues that the latter yields more potential as a high art. She also writes an intriguing essay reminiscent of her work on "camp" called The Pornographic Imagination, in which she compares science-fiction and fantasy literature to pornography. Style of Radical Will is a potent and layered read from what was once one of our greatest public intellectuals.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By jafrank on February 16, 2012
Format: Paperback
The opening piece, The Aesthetics of Silence, is one of the smartest things I've ever read about the development of a modern artistic sensibility. It's probably one of the smartest things I've ever read period. She just completely hits her stride and makes one brilliant observation after another after another. A lot of people are put off by Sontag. Maybe it's the declarative way she writes. It might be patronizing if it didn't so consistently force the reader to confront what modern culture is and what it is still becoming. And the rest of these are all pretty damn good. The one on film and theater seems a bit dated, and I'm not sure I buy wholesale into her endless love of Jean Luc Godard. But even when you disagree with her, it's usually on her terms. And the last piece about her going to Hanoi is the perfect counterpoint to the uber-confident tone in the opener. She does a magnificent job of showing how a mind steeped in western european/american culture is suddenly forced into a more intellectually modest project of observing when thrust down (however briefly) into a radically different cultural/linguistic milieu, where talking about philosophy and literature suddenly takes a second seat to just trying to communicate about basic human experience. It's hard to talk about travel without resorting to the usual cliches about "changing your perspective", Sontag shows how genuine, humbling, and personally frustrating that cliche is
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