The first 2-3 essays of the book are just astonishing. I've been perusing Sontag's journals for the past year or so, and her intellectual range leadsThe first 2-3 essays of the book are just astonishing. I've been perusing Sontag's journals for the past year or so, and her intellectual range leads you perilously near to pure jealousy, but then you concede her anomalous mind and simply admire it instead. This seemingly limitless curiosity and brute capacity for knowledge is best exhibited in those first 2-3 essays (particularly the first two, which is why I keep saying "2-3"), and also remains less cloyingly didactic there. For example, her consideration of Diane Arbus at length maintains a level of contemplation and engagement - a recognition of both the potentially nihilistic and exploitative registers of Arbus's "freak" work and its power of imagination and sidewise cultural commentary - that falls by the wayside in the latter half of the book, where I felt lectured to in a more dogmatic mode. The later essays tend to sound polemical, in the negative sense of that word, rather than exploratory.
This, for me, is the key difference between someone like Sontag and someone like Didion, to whom comparisons - at least I've noticed this lately - are often drawn. Sontag centers her self in the essays; Didion seeks always to efface herself, though this effacement can be even more telling than Sontag's calling her own bluff. Point being, Sontag can sometimes irk me because her sexy essayistic writing begins to feel claustrophobic; I feel as if I've been seduced into agreeing necessarily with points that aren't as fully developed as they could be. I want to feel that a claim is arguable, and that the writer has enabled dialogue. In the later essays of this book, Sontag writes her readers into a corner. Either way, certainly the most exciting writing on photography I've read....more
I don't know why it took me 2 months to slog through this, cuz it was pretty great. Unfortunately, she also started writing this in her teen years, &aI don't know why it took me 2 months to slog through this, cuz it was pretty great. Unfortunately, she also started writing this in her teen years, & will make you feel like a unicellular dolt in her brilliant musings. I also loved her lists, for some reason, and so felt liberated to incorporate them into my own diaries. I still feel shamed every time I write in mine, though, because everything appears banal by comparison. Looking forward to the other volumes of Sontag's journals - are they both out now? I don't remember....more
About the last book I'd ever pick up on my own (I am about as far from interested in sports as one can possibly be), but Ware's successful integrationAbout the last book I'd ever pick up on my own (I am about as far from interested in sports as one can possibly be), but Ware's successful integration of a widespan of provocative topics--feminism, Title IX, the politics of athletics, BJ King, public outing, &co--proved a quite interesting and educational (but not boring) read. I can't say I came away from the book *liking* King really at all, but I don't require that from a biographical portrait. She certainly offers a useful icon/figurehead for the intersections of these diverse issues, even if she seems self-serving and, well, profoundly fake.
It's an accessible book that wears its research well. In the interest of full disclosure, Susan Ware was teaching a grad course I was in at the time of reading, but this is no sycophantic review. I think particularly if you're interested in feminist history, sports, tennis, or King this will be a wonderfully useful book to have at hand....more