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Where the Stress Falls: Essays
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover
To those reviewers who find Susan Sontag a literary snob and anti-American, request a copy of her reading at Chapters Literary Bookstore in Washington, DC from C-CPAN2 (aired 11/10/2001) to get the benefit of her own words without media filtering. Her essays are gifts to writers and readers, to Americans and to the world of humankind. She simply asks all of us to THINK...what a concept!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
I generally prefer Sontag's longer and more personal essays usually found in her earlier work. This collection is a compilation of essays on art gathered from some of the last years of her life; they cover a wide range of topics, from literature to Italian photography. I felt that the most interesting section was her essays on her solidarity trips to Sarejevo during the Serbs' bombardment, where she directed a production of Beckett's Waiting for Godot; it's a wonderful testament to the universality of great art. I'm afraid I can't sustain the same kind of equality of interest to the arts collectively as Sontag did, and I must admit I found her pieces on garden art and dance terribly boring. That aside, she does include some characteristically excellent essays on film, such as her elaborate review of Fassbinder's adaptation of Alfred Doblin's Berlin Alexanderplatz which immediately imparted me with an urge to see the film and read the book. She also writes a brief review of cinema's 100 year history, which is a bit simplistic as any short piece on this topic would have to be. She maintains that silent cinema was born which brought forth two directions in cinema: art and entertainment. The films during the silent era were largely adaptations of plays and were truly great art. Then the sound period came into being and film receded into "Hollywood" adaptations of great novels which largely failed, until the pioneer directors of the period such as Howard Hawks perfected the genre style mode of filmmaking. Then the French New Wave came along, led by the genius of Jean-Luc Godard and Francoise Truffaut and turned movies into a high art for 20 years. Unfortunately, when production costs escalated in the 80's Hollywood took over gain and turned the cinema into an industry once again. This narrative has elements of truth, but it really denies the significance of many American and Asian filmmakers who played an important role in the history of film, Sontag prefers to label Godard the patron saint of the cinema, a view I hold only in his relationship with the progression of French cinema as a whole, a history which of course includes Jean Renoir, Sontag's essay does not acknowledge such masters.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on October 30, 2002
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
My favorite piece in this book is 'Answers to a Questionnaire'-- vintage Sontag-- thinking, witnessing, and finally enlightening everything she must. Despite the self-loathing revealed by a number of American reviewers below who show themselves apparently ready to detest integrity itself, the naked truth comes clear and comes clear! Clear thinking may yet be the last frontier! A worthy argument for such is surely made in the pages of this book. It is even for those who are spiteful without cause to discover themselves lurking in the heart of this book, grevious as ignorance is, & wretched as spite becomes in the end. Listen-- vitriolic political sideswiping is as American as dumplings. Sontag, characteristically and sympathetically, not only notes its irrevelance, but conjures an antidote called moral patience, so no wonder all the shouts and curses against her! Making certain their own avenues of self-discovery venture nothing wiser than a hepped up, but sunless, hyper-nationalism wretchedly disguised as patriotism, it's unfortunately not surprising the chorus of disappoval this woman engenders. Thank goodness Sontag remains preoccupied with her Art!-- a living, teaching, redemptive art burnished, by now, to an holistic glow, as every page of this book bears witness. What in the world are you talking about??! -- SUSAN SONTAG IS AMERICAN TO THE CORE! I reckon that aspect of her identity contributes as much as any other of her native gifts to the beauty and usefulness of her art. Wake up, people!
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Bravo Susan Sontag- great book, greater writer - her stature is directly proportional to the lengths her critics have gone to character-assassinate her. I now will buy the book! No, I'll buy two.
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16 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Sontag is a great writer and if you love non-fiction writing (a la Joan Didion) then you will love this book. The essays cover a wide range of topics, including a discussion of some fellow writers. I highly recommend it!
One other thing: some of the posts here have absolutely nothing to do with Sontag's book. I thought this space was for book reviews, not political diatribes and ad hominem attacks.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Sontag sure did make a name for herself. I recently read in the biography of Edmund Wilson that he didn't think much of her. Here are gathered a miscellaneous collection of essays from Sontag's days as a critic/reviewer. One loves her willingness to go out on a limb for nearly unknown authors. She was a talent scout more than anything else. The big boys out in Hollywood would have known what to do with her. She could have dug up material for MGM and made a decent living, instead of hanging around New York. Alas, she was born 20 years too late. Like Pauline Kael of the New Yorker, Sontag was an enthusiast; she had "lost it" at the library, as Kael would have said, and we benefit from her exquisite taste. She wrote appreciations, but as Wilson rightly notes, she wasn't all that deep and doesn't have half of Wilson's erudition and learning, although clearly she had flair. If you read Coetzee's recent essays on many of the same authors, such as the Eastern Europeans and Germans, one can see clearly what the difference is between a critic and a reviewer. Sontag was always a journalist first and a scholar last if at all. She would have loved Vanity Fair or pretended not to. Sontag, one hears, grew rather flamboyantly arrogant, which is a shame. She really had no reason to look down on people. The little two-page essays here, including film reviews and articles on ballet, are too slight to justify the enormously high regard she had for herself. Sontag is now hardly a foot-note in the literary firmament, but in her day she provided an enormously valuable service to readers. She helped us discover new and exciting writers from around the world.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
''Where the Stress Falls'' is a collection of reprinted nonfiction written by Ms. Sontag in the last two decades. These 41 eclectic pieces present a view of the world according to Sontag. Many readers may not identify Ms. Sontag's views. Reading this not-always-popular intellectual icon's work challenges the reader to use many brain cells. And her writing style sometimes lacks smooth flow, words run rough shod across the myriad topics. Her writing voice can rub even the open minded the wrong way. But this is a worthwhile intellectual adventure. Most of the essays are brief, but make you feel like you're indulging in an exotic literary feast. Sontag has long threatened to make the phrase "American Intellectual" a dirty one, but that's half the fun. There lies the most probable key to her longevity as a published writer: at inopportune times she makes choppy waves in a stagnating intellectual swamp and I suspect she does so with a good dollop of literary glee. A bit of her writing is cloying with it's self congratulatory indulgences and her inability to get out of her own way. If you feel compelled to read a challenging nonfiction book, this can be brain candy.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2001
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Sontag's essays on the writing life are useful and fascinating. Keep an open mind and decide for yourself.
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8 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Since "On Photography" Miss Sontag has been making us think more about our resposability as individuals to this world. Americans should be proud to have such a genious among themselves.
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6 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2001
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Sontag's essays on the writing life are useful and fascinating. Keep an open mind and decide for yourself.
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