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Susan Sontag: The Complete Rolling Stone Interview

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  1,286 ratings  ·  110 reviews
Published in its entirety for the first time, a candid conversation with Susan Sontag at the height of her brilliant career

“One of my oldest crusades is against the distinction between thought and feeling, which is really the basis of all anti-intellectual views: the heart and the head, thinking and feeling, fantasy and judgment . . . and I don’t believe it’s true. . . . I
Hardcover, 168 pages
Published October 22nd 2013 by Yale University Press (first published 1978)
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 ·  1,286 ratings  ·  110 reviews

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Start your review of Susan Sontag: The Complete Rolling Stone Interview
A great book to dip into, almost everything Sontag says is quote-worthy - her devotion to thought and life and art, and how articulate she is when discussing them, are truly inspiring and intimidating, especially if you imagine her being interviewed in that cover pose, brazenly undressing you with her eyes, astride a window ledge.

What she has to say about illness and cancer in western culture is fascinating. I didn't agree with everything here, and there is a touch of superiority and narcissism
Jul 14, 2017 added it
Impossible to resist a re-read even a few short months after the first go, simply too good.


Susan Sontag is, to me, addictive in the sense that I truly can't stop rereading her once something has provoked me to. She has such a large appetite and desire for thinking that elevates my own days into a long, joyous will to be alive and to find things and read into them. This is a great conversation - especially because you can feel her sensuality in talking, much of this is about the erotics of tho
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
“You have to create your own space—a space that has a lot of silence in it and a lot of books.”

“What does it matter what age you are? We shouldn’t try to impose any idea about what we should do that depends on whether we feel something is childlike or adultlike. And I have fantasies about childhood—not the childhood that I personally had but the values represented in the child’s openness and innocence and vulnerability and sensitivity to things—and I think, how terrible that we don’t preserve th
A.C. Collins
Dec 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
This took some time to read and contemplate. The format is very conversational, no doubt it was recorded and edited into book form. Sontag was one of America's great thinkers of the 20th century and many of her insights caused me to think and evaluate previous notions. There are many points as well that I disagree with, which is just as important. I will keep this book on my shelf for that reason. Our beliefs and opinions are only as good as our willingness to question them, reaffirm them, or ch ...more
Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Francesca Faccani
"I would use myself, among other things, as material. But what I’m interested in is the world. All my work is based on the idea that there really is a world, and I really feel as if I’m in it.
Yes, I feel as if I’m paying attention to the world. I’m very aware of and fascinated by what is the not me, and I’m interested and drawn to understand it."
Dec 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One is always in good hands when the name Jonathan Cott is mentioned in the byline. He was probably one of the few reasons to read Rolling Stone Magazine during the 60's and 70's. Cott is rarity in that he's a profound interviewer who also listens to his subject matter. He has total understanding of his subject matter's work - and using that as the foundation of his various interviews, one gets profound observations on an artist's work. This is a book length interview with the always fascinating ...more
Mar 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So great! Instant inspiration. Amazing to follow her train of thought from one subject to another, & to feel the passion she has for it all. (She begins many of her responses with "look," or "listen,") Also fascinating as a snapshot of her life & thought at a particular moment (1978), when she had just finished her book Illness as Metaphor, and was also, among many other things, going to CBGB to see Patti Smith. Occasionally annoying is the interviewer Jonathan Cott dropping some quote from some ...more
Liz Una Kim
Nov 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Simply euphoric. The entire experience was like third wheeling on a dinner date with two extremely intelligent personalities and having absolutely nothing to contribute, but too in awe to leave. Whatever yo. Susan's my gal pal. ...more
Niels Putman
Nov 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I took loads of pictures of different quotes when reading this book, which is indeed highly quotable - but what would Susan have to say about taking pictures of printed words? Surely something interesting & thought-provoking.

This interview is a Great read - both because Sontag was obviously impeccably intellectual ánd Cott was as sharp as her during their double talk. It gives more insight on her ideas about some of her so-to-speak favourite subjects such as illness, photography, linguistics, e
Apr 05, 2019 rated it liked it
It's weird - I don't know what started my interest in Susan Sontag and it's not even that we share the same or even similar mindset, because we don't, but yet I'm always pulled towards anything by, about, or with her.
But maybe, due to clashing opinions, reading her thoughts makes me think, and think deeper (let's hope ha).
Basically when I found out this book existed I knew I needed it and I devoured it in less than 24 hours of its arrival, once again inspired by Sontag as a human being.
Feb 23, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa, nonfiction
I can not subscribe to every opinion that Sontag quoted here, but this is actually highly desirable - it triggers a fun internal polemic with imaginery Susan Sontag about subjects you probably contemplate not too often. The interview itself led by Jonathan Cott creates a standard I wish most present-day journalists could follow.
Lucy Smith
Oct 27, 2018 rated it liked it
I was fascinated by Susan and how she chose to live her life. Some of her ideas were also fascinating. Quite a lot of others were very complex and I couldn’t bring myself to make the effort to try to understand them.
Nadine Lensborn
Feb 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Quite stimulating, inspiring, also challenging, and even quite funny to read.
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Quick read
За съжаление четох само това, което може да се намери в интернет. Някой ден ще си държа книгата с пълното интервю. Но тук си запазвам цитати. Зонтаг е вдъхновение.

The greatest effort is to be really where you are, contemporary with yourself, in your life, giving full attention to the world. That's what a writer does. I'm against the solipsistic idea that you find it all in your head. You don't.
Everything in this society — in the way we live — conspires to eliminate all but the most banal lev
Reuben Woolley
Aug 06, 2019 rated it liked it
This is definitely more than the boring cash-grab after her death that I assumed it was, and at points it’s a fascinating insight into how sontag’s worldview feeds into the seemingly disparate aspects of her works, but I’d definitely only recommend this to someone who’s already spent a while reading her essays: there’s a lot of aimless conversation, and it’s quite laden with period-specific details and thinking, which weren’t of much interest to me as a modern reader
Jan 16, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
Gave up on...I just couldn't get much out of it...I didn't understand the reference and found it pretentious ...more
Dec 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
She made me gay. I say that with the highest compliment.
Tiff Gibbo
Dec 22, 2019 rated it liked it
A great overview of exactly where Sontag was in her life at the time of the interview. The interview hops serenely from talk of illness, to photography, to feminism, to music, the Vietnam War, the construction of love, sexuality, and on.

The dynamic needs some mentioning here - Cott was an undergrad when Sontag was lecturing at Columbia, and it shows in the way he asks questions and the way she answers them. There is a desperate need here to seem intellectual enough for his former-professor, and
Vel Veeter
Apr 01, 2020 rated it liked it
This is Susan Sontag’s long interview some close years after being diagnosed with cancer in the mid-1970s. The result of this diagnosis is the long essay “Illness as Metaphor” which dissects the concept of deeper interpretation and hidden meaning in illness, especially focusing on tuberculosis and cancer. This book came out before the AIDS epidemic and so feel lacking in that sense, but was later expanded and combined with writing about AIDS, something she spends time in her fiction with as well ...more
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very well conducted interview, one of the best I've read, in my opinion. They got into many difficult topics like equality; intellectualism; even death. But the dynamics between Cott and Sontag made the discussion very interesting!

What a brilliant woman. I have never felt so connected to someone I don't entirely agree with. She was outspoken; dedicated to thinking, as well as perfecting her thinking - I think "stop moving forward" was never an option for her. Like I said, I don't agree with al
May 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A full transcription of a multi-part interview Cott conducted with Sontag in 1978, which was only excerpted at the time. (It ends up stretching into a book of 130 pages!) Sontag seems fun, and funny, via this interview. She admits her own contradictions, because of her commitment to constant change. She talks about how rock and roll (Bill Haley and the Comets), the energy of it, made her change her life and find the one she actually wanted to leave in the late 50s (leaving her marriage and the a ...more
Oct 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Okay, I finally have an answer to the stupid question "If you had the opportunity, which famous figure would you invite to dinner?"
This is a kapow kind of book for me. Linking so many topics and ideas together that have been on or around my mind.
She is an explosive thinker, chaotic and honest about her thinking and writing, there not a snobby bone in her body. The first part of the interview was conducted in Paris and the second half six months later in New York, one of my favourite parts of thi
Susan Sontag the essayist and Susan Sontag the person share the same incisive wit. Her personality is light as a feather and the dynamics here in her interview with Jonathan Cott are delightful. Cott brings out sophisticated questions, and Sontag answers with endless charm and erudition. I love this book because I simply can't get enough of Sontag, it's an addiction. I've laughed out loud multiple times because of how novel and fascinating both the questions and answers are. Another wonderful wi ...more
Chris Hall
Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
I think 'conversation' would probably be a better description of this than 'interview' as the tone is so amiable.

Having said that, Sontag is very lucid and speaks with an exceptional eloquence. I was also pleased with the breadth of topics covered.

Even if you've read the interview as published in Rolling Stone I'd still recommend this (the published interview was apparently a third of what's covered here and there's little I'd leave out)
May 03, 2017 rated it liked it
This interview is for those who've read much of Sontag, and those who've read none. While there are original observations, much of what she says here is repeated in her other works. So this serves best to introduce you to her thought, or to bridge it together. ...more
Cassie Ferguson
Feb 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Love her voice and thoughts! Thought that the book quotes that he drew from could have been a little more diverse in choosing, but I loved hearing all of her opinions. I can't wait to read more of her. ...more
Mtume Gant
Aug 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Makes you jealous that you couldn’t spend at least one afternoon with a thinker like that in your life. What’s amazing about Sontag is that even in conversation she feels literary. Just an awesome, filling read.
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“One of my oldest crusades is against the distinction between thought and feeling, which is really the basis of all anti-intellectual views: the heart and the head, thinking and feeling, fantasy and judgment . . . and I don’t believe it’s true. . . . I have the impression that thinking is a form of feeling and that feeling is a form of thinking.” 4 likes
“Se spariranno i libri, sparirà la storia, e spariranno anche gli esseri umani ... I libri non sono soltanto la somma arbitraria dei nostri sogni, e la nostra memoria. Ci offrono anche un modello di autotrascendenza. C'è chi pensa che la lettura sia soltanto una forma di evasione: un'evasione dal mondo «reale» di tutti i giorni, verso un mondo immaginario, il mondo dei libri. I libri sono molto di più. Sono una maniera per essere pienamente umani.” 0 likes
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