Schreiber’s intelligent reading of Sontag’s works and his fair and balanced handling of the impassioned controversies she...

SUSAN SONTAG

A BIOGRAPHY

A sensitive, cleareyed biography of an intellectual star, first published in Germany in 2007.

Despite lack of access to Sontag’s letters and diaries, being edited by her son at the time, Berlin-based writer Schreiber has made excellent use of extensive interviews with Sontag’s friends and lovers, as well as her published interviews, to create a perceptive and revealing portrait of his restless, glamorous and egotistical subject. Intellectually precocious, Sontag (1933-2004) began college at 16; the following year, after a 10-day courtship, she married her sociology instructor, Philip Rieff. When Rieff took a position at Brandeis University, they moved to the Boston area, where, when she was 19, their son was born. At 24, she was ready to write a doctoral dissertation at Harvard when theologian Paul Tillich recommended her for a fellowship at Oxford. Leaving her husband and son, Sontag traveled abroad for the first time, discovered Paris and launched her startling career. Central to Sontag’s success was her relationship with Roger Straus, her publisher, mentor and unfailing champion. At Straus’ legendary parties, she met such prominent figures as Edmund Wilson, Partisan Review editor Philip Rahv, George Balanchine and Richard Avedon. They introduced her to others, and soon she was a “dramatically beautiful presence” among the New York literati. Her breakthrough to intellectual stardom was an iconoclastic essay, “Notes on ‘Camp’ ” (1964), which skewered “the pantheon of high culture: truth, beauty, and seriousness.” Schreiber follows Sontag’s wide-ranging career after this auspicious start, which included fiction, several volumes of essays and monographs, films and plays. Most notable are Illness as Metaphor (1978), the essay collections Against Interpretation (1966) and Under the Sign of Saturn (1980); On Photography (1977), Regarding the Pain of Others (2002) and the novel In America (2000).

Schreiber’s intelligent reading of Sontag’s works and his fair and balanced handling of the impassioned controversies she generated admirably serve both his subject and his readers.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8101-2583-4

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Northwestern Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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