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Styles of Radical Will

4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  378 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
Styles of Radical Will, Susan Sontag's second collection of essays, extends the investigations she undertook in Against Interpretation with essays on film, literature, politics, and a groundbreaking study of pornography.
Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 6th 2002 by Picador (first published January 1st 1969)
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She sounds so much like Trilling! Trilling’s moral gravity—with a haughty “Gallic” abstraction I find utterly irresistible. Sontag’s heyday as an intellectual pinup occurred before I was even born—but I get it. Her critical voice seems the perfectly oracular emanation of the book-lined apartments of the self-consciously "edgy" tastemaking intelligentsia--the dandified apartments perched above the garbage and graffiti of 1970s Manhattan, so ambivalently described by Edmund White, a ragamuffin fre ...more
Jan 31, 2017 Matthew rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essays-theory
What's Happening in America (1966)

Everything that one feels about this country is, or ought to be, conditioned by the awareness of American power: of America as the arch-imperium of the planet, holding man’s biological and well as his historical future in its King Kong paws. Today’s America, with Ronald Reagan the new daddy in California and John Wayne chewing spareribs in the White House, is pretty much the same Yahooland that Mencken was describing. The main difference is that what’s happening
Jun 20, 2011 Jeremy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essays
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 a ...more
May 26, 2016 Andrew added it
Shelves: essays, susan-sontag
Oh, Ms. Sontag, a lot of your ideas are so thoroughly out of fashion but your writing is still as elegant and as intellectually dazzling as ever.

Let's start with that essay about pornography. Intriguing, I suppose, but when she says, for instance, that porn cannot parody itself, it becomes increasingly apparent that she wrote this in those innocent days before Brazzers and co. came onto the scene. Or let's look at the "What's Happening in America" essay, a screed written by a pissed-the-fuck-off
Oct 26, 2007 Tosh rated it it was amazing
I could never get into her fiction for some odd reason, but as an essayist, she stands alone. It is sort of like having coffee with someone who knows everything, and you are totally fascinated by this person.

Most of the essays are from the late 60's or early 70's - and all of them are great. It is not even an issue if you agree with her or not - it is how she attacks or gets on a subject and it's always interesting. Of course, it seems we have the same taste, so that helps I guess!
May 26, 2009 Laura rated it really liked it
I read the essay 'The Aesthetics of Silence', written in 1967, in the context of researching Cage and East-West concepts of silence in contemporary music. So I will only write about that.
Sontag is always incisive, and this essay is fascinating as an historical document. However, I have to agree with Darla Crispin's essay 'Some Noisy Ruminations on Susan Sontag's 'Aesthetics of Silence'' that Sontag only considers her argument through a Western cultural context. Sontag is talking about the annihi
Raffael Schneider
Jan 07, 2016 Raffael Schneider rated it it was amazing
Reading Susan Sontag's timeless collection of essays is a fascinating and deep intellectual experience. She touches and elaborates on so many crucial topics concerning aesthetic sensibility and the development of art in the 60s and 70s with an enviable and profound knowledge in and aptitude for what she is writing that reading her essays turns into a delighting and enriching experience matched by very few essayists from both her time and ours. I've particularly admired her essay writing for a lo ...more
Aug 04, 2008 John rated it really liked it
I bought this to read the essay "Trip to Hanoi."

While reading it, it occurred to me that liberal-leftist utopia-fantasy states are geographically distant, (The Spanish Republic, The Soviet Union, Mao/Che/Cuban "revolutionary space," Chiapas Uprising) while conservative-traditionalist utopia-fantasy states are historically distant (the Greek City states, the Christian Roman Emperors, the Eisenhower-Ozzie-Harriet Era).
Sorin Hadârcă
The 'Trip to Hanoi' is great both as travel writing and as an essay: so subtle, so speaking from the heart. For this chapter alone this book climbs to the top of my favorites. The other essays mark the boundaries of the cultural landscape speaking from its periphery: end of words, end of reason, end of desire and many other intriguing ends.
Jun 07, 2009 Jeffrey rated it really liked it
Though wider in scope than Against Interpretation, Susan Sontag's second collection of essays is in my opinion decidedly weaker. I would mainly recommend Styles of Radical Will on the basis of the first and last essays only, which are excellent if flawed as well. To me, the intervening pieces -- on topics ranging from literary pornography to Ingmar Bergman -- are interesting to a degree but fall quite short of her usual standard. (To my disappointment, the lengthy essay on Godard is perhaps the ...more
Roberto dos Santos Gonçalves
Luego del interés que despertó en mí ‘Contra la interpretación y otros ensayos’ confieso mi decepción ante este texto. Observo a una autora que de ensayo a ensayo luce irreconocible al punto de que estos parezcan escritos por distintas plumas.
Medio siglo no ha transcurrido en vano. Hay mucho de obsolescencia en los temas abordados, de hecho, seguí adelante en la lectura de este libro porque lo asumí como documento histórico. Ni siquiera ubico lo radical en su contenido. Salvo por el entusiasmo
Feb 14, 2012 Herbert rated it really liked it
Sontag's book of essays contains a lot to intrigue and some to repulse. My three star rating reflects my own reaction to the mix of work, and is no reflection on Sontag as a writer - it's obvious that she's brilliant. Some of the essays, such as "The Pornographic Imagination" and "The Aesthetics of Silence", remain vibrant and essential (at least to my internal monologue); while the essays "What's Happening in America" and "Trip to Hanoi" are very much of their time, and have not aged well with ...more
Greg Brown
Aug 03, 2014 Greg Brown rated it really liked it
Sontag always feels beyond my capabilities, speaking both from and of an alien milieu: New York thought and culture of the 1960s and '70s. But there's also an international flavor to her tastes, informed by French writing of the time that often wasn't translated, and really hasn't even become popular today. And then there's her interest in the New Wave films of the time, full of Godard and Bresson and other filmmakers I haven't seen anything of. So you can see why I felt like I was floating, los ...more
May 24, 2011 Pablo rated it it was amazing
This is the best prose of Susan Sontag, whose novels and short stories are interesting but never as brillaint, as erudite, as suggestive as her essays. It may be not as famous - or as celebrated - as the previous one, but I think her chronicle on Vietnam is, easily, the literature at best. The self, the words, the meanings and the look are all; the resonance and the evocation are inmense and Sontag's challenge, to face it all (from art to politics to the then-rising arthouse movies without forge ...more
Aug 04, 2008 christopher rated it liked it
It is well known that Sontag has lost a bit of her credibility in academia, with Zizek citing Susan Sontag's mistake as a major mistep in contemporary thought. Styles of Radical Will contains some of the most major of Sontag's errors in political thought. While her texts on aesthetics (especially film) are valuable additions to the realm of 1960s aesthetic thought, "Trip to Hanoi" and "What's Happening in America" are nearly offensive looks at the state of American society in the mid-sixties. So ...more
Aug 28, 2015 Rebecca rated it liked it
Mixed feelings about this book of Susan Sontag essays. The first essay, "Aesthetics of Silence," hits all the right notes and is a powerful reminder of the role that silence and pauses play in an artistic medium. On the other hand, "Trip to Hanoi" was completely disappointing to me. SS's brand of cultural elitism assumes that the Vietnamese are incapable of the kind of complex thinking that she and NY's intellectual circles are doing. It's a shame, especially since I've come to expect better dis ...more
Nov 10, 2008 Gregory rated it really liked it
'On the Nature of Silence' is an amazing essay on the philosophy, history, aesthetics and future direction of Minimalism from an early 60's perspective. 'The Pornographic Imagination' is a study of mostly early-mid 20th century works of literary erotica, including Bataille(Story of the Eve), Reage(Story of O), De Sade(Justine) and Genet.
Cheong Cheng Wen
Oct 21, 2016 Cheong Cheng Wen rated it really liked it
My general comment is that I didn't much understand the language at the beginning, but the befuddlement cleared up approaching the end of the essays. The exception was her famous Trip to Hanoi, in which her substantive monologue and comparison of Vietnamese and American culture struck me pleasantly with a more reflective tone and less obscure language.
Jul 25, 2008 Phillip rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essays
it's always a good idea to re-read sontag, her ideas are challenging and her essays give great insight into culture. i'm just re-visiting two essays, the opening one on the artist and silence and another on the work of jean-luc godard. sontag's defense of godard is one of the most compelling out there, and provides great insight into the iconoclast's work.
Jul 24, 2008 Dan rated it it was amazing
Sontag has amazed me again with her second book of essays. Longer and tighter than in Against Interpretation, each one of these essays provides valuable insight into the mind of an impeccable reader and critic.
Apr 16, 2008 Lisa added it
I should be clear here that I don't intend on reading all of Sontag's essay in one go. The essay I am reading now is "The Pornographic Imagination" since Sontag there discusses Bataille and his relation to the genre of pornography.
--The Aesthetics of Silence
--The Pornographic Imagination
--"Thinking Against Oneself": Reflections on Cioran

--Theatre and Film
--Bergman's Persona

--What's Happening in America (1966)
--Trip to Hanoi
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Jewish American literary critic, theorist, novelist, and filmmaker.
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