DEATH KIT by Susan Sontag


A Novel
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In Death Kit, Susan Sontag attempts to achieve those qualities of the nouveau-roman she has praised in her criticism; that "search for an infinite precision...narrow dehydrated subject-matter and cool microscopic style." This suggests the laboratory method of composition with the novelist as scientist. In Death Kit, while the experiment may be considered successful, the patient, unfortunately, dies. Indeed, the patient, the hero, Diddy the Dull, seems just a bit still-born. A curious mating of influences here: Miss Sontag treads the path of Nathalie Sarraute, but Mary McCarthy keeps following. The phenomenological objectively comes from the former, while the tone and whatever sparkle the novel possesses comes from Miss McCarthy. Behind the symbolic decor (Did Diddy the Dreamer really murder the worker in the tunnel? Is Hester, the blind girl, Diddy the Intellectual's life-line to flawed humanity or the senses?), a number of episodes, some straight out of old movies, round out the narrative's unexceptionable contours, culminating in a bizarre burial crypt scene (the best in the book) where Diddy the Dying perceives "the inventory of the world." A noble, serious try at a structuralist study of indeterminacy in an American setting, with many shrewd, startling moments, and that's about all.
Pub Date: Aug. 22nd, 1967
ISBN: 0312420110
Page count: 324pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1967


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