AGAINST INTERPRETATION by Susan Sontag

AGAINST INTERPRETATION

And Other Essays
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KIRKUS REVIEW

If one were to judge these essays in terms of price, their value would be very high.

At her best (and worst) Miss Sontag offers three pennies worth of thought in any one sentence. "The function of criticism should be to show how it is what it is, even that it is what it is, rather than to show what it means." Wonderful. And she drops names like dandruff. The classic example is a classic of her own. "Notes on 'Camp'." With epigraphs from Wilde, and random examples of the Camp "sensibility" (King Kong, Swan Lake, and the memorable "stag movies seen without lust"), Miss Sontag concludes: "The ultimate Camp statement: it's good because it's awful...but one can't always say that. Only under certain conditions, which I've tried to sketch in these notes." (Did she mean stretch?) Anyway, Miss Sontag's method is an entertaining mixture of sheer assertion, phenomenology, deep-think, and gush. On Levi-Strauss, Camus, Leiris, and The Deputy, she's brilliant; on the films of Bresson fine; on those of Goddard, Resnais, and Jack Smith a little drippy. Her "Going to Theatre" pieces usually go to pieces; the Marat/Sade coverage, however, is excellent. She fumbles with Sartre and Ionesco, and her long tribute to the radical art of "Happenings" is a propagandistic hullabaloo. Her three theory-essays (the title one, "On Style," and "On Culture") are maddeningly uneven. Like a Joan of Arc of the avant-garde, Miss Sontag attempts a critical breakthrough. Now and then, she succeeds.

In any case, controversial "must" reading.
Pub Date: Jan. 17th, 1965
ISBN: 0312280866
Page count: 340pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1965




REVIEWING THE LEGENDS: NONFICTION:

NonfictionWORKING by Studs Terkel
by Studs Terkel
NonfictionNOTES OF A NATIVE SON by James Baldwin
by James Baldwin
NonfictionTHE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST by David Halberstam
by David Halberstam
NonfictionORIENTALISM by Edward W. Said
by Edward W. Said

MORE BY SUSAN SONTAG

FictionDEBRIEFING by Susan Sontag
by Susan Sontag
NonfictionREGARDING THE PAIN OF OTHERS by Susan Sontag
by Susan Sontag
FictionIN AMERICA by Susan Sontag
by Susan Sontag