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Death Kit

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  456 ratings  ·  39 reviews
First published in 1967, Death Kit--Susan Sontag's second novel--is a classic of modern fiction. Blending realism and dream, it offers a passionate exploration of the recesses of the American conscience.
Paperback, 320 pages
Published June 1st 2002 by Picador (first published January 1st 1967)
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3.54  · 
Rating details
 ·  456 ratings  ·  39 reviews

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rachel  misfiticus
Mar 04, 2009 rated it it was ok
Rachel the curious picks up Death Kit.

Rachel the eager begins to read Death Kit.

Rachel the approving reads a few pages and enjoys the verbiage.

Rachel the intrigued expects to be charmed with mysterious scenarios.

Rachel the expectant.

Rachel the impatient reads another book to satiate feeling of accomplishment.

Rachel the rebounding resolves to finish this damn book by the end of the week.

Rachel the inattentive continues this perfunctory reading.

Rachel the redundant is bored.

Rachel the relieved ha
Mar 09, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-women-2014
Susan Sontag was more of a figure than a person. Intimidatingly intelligent and self-assured, she was an embodiment of an intellectual. Suffice to say there is only one woman Hitchens talks in any length about in his memoir (other than his mother) and it’s Susan Sontag. Even Hitchens, the notorious woman-ignorer (if not necessarily a woman-hater) couldn’t ignore Sontag.

It felt good to be reading Susan Sontag. Also I sure looked good reading Sontag, walking around with black and white Penguin Mod
Jason Pettus
Jul 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
(As of summer 2012, a first-edition copy of this book is being sold through the rare-book service at the arts organization I own, the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. Here below is the description I wrote for its listing.)

Known affectionately by her fans as "The Dark Lady of American Letters," like many writers the late Susan Sontag is almost equally known for her personality, celebrity and controversial views as for her varied body of work itself. A ser
Dec 16, 2010 rated it liked it
Susan Sontag’s Death Kit opens as the story of a man who, in the course of a train journey, becomes convinced he has recently killed someone. The fact that he tried to kill himself only a short time ago gives the reader a clue; perhaps Diddy’s version of events is not entirely reliable. And as the story progresses, the varied characters flitting in and out of his life begin to a take on an image more symbolic than personal. The dead railwayman, the blind lover, the jovial fellow employee…

As Didd
Apr 25, 2010 rated it liked it
El the Victorious finished this book (now).

It's becoming very evident to me that Susan Sontag is one of those authors that is meant to be experienced, not discussed. But that's really pretentious, so let's see what happens as I try to review this completely cerebral book.

Very similar to Sontag's first book, The Benefactor: A Novel, in that the protagonist (Dalton "Diddy" Harron in this book) has trouble discerning between dream and reality. During a train trip he vividly recalls killing a railro
C. Quabela
I would have to say that one of the most interesting aspects of Sontag’s novel is her persistent use of the third person personal. Very rarely does she employ a third person pronoun and so we achieve a level with her main character (Diddy) that is close to being analogous to the relationship he holds to himself. That is, one of detachment. The present is always second guessed in her repetition of the “(now)” which, though seemingly tired after the first quarter, continues its significance throug ...more
Zöe Yu
Jul 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
All her novels are dreams, illusion, and despair! It's a dying dream of an overdosed man named Dalton. Those cliche Freudian family issues are actually Susan Sontag's own reflection from her rootless Childhood. I don't agree with those critics that Death Kit is not a successful novel. It's an experimental novel, some parts it went too freer, and readers just way too impatient to digest it and feel it. Sontag suggests "we need to see more, to hear more, to feel more" in Against Interpretation ess ...more
Mar 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Death Kit by Sontag.

Not to be read by people like me - clinically depressed and have a difficult time fitting in or getting some love in life.

Uh, I think I may have enjoyed this if I had been on some sort of mood stabilizing meds or a somewhat "normal" person - who could look into Diddy's world as if it were "strange", "new", or "titillating" even.

It's pretty somber read.

Diddy (the main character) is always banging this scrawny, pale, blind chick. He is - if I remember - a handsome, well-dressed
Mar 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
I started out thinking I was really going to like this, finding the writing excitingly unusual:

"Diddy, not really alive, had a life. Hadly the same. Some people are their lives. Others, like Diddy, merely inhabit their lives. ... Eventually, for such a person, everything is bound to run down. The walls sag. Empty spaces bulge between objects. The surfaces of objects sweat, thin out, buckle. The hysterical fluids of fear deposited at the core of objects ooze out along the seams."

But as it progres
May 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Not an enjoyable novel, perhaps, but a thought-provoking one. Sontag is known for her criticism and philosophy, and it would probably be fair to say that she has a certain cult appeal among adolescent literature students that’s based more on a love of precocious grey-bestreaked intellectuals with exciting love lives as it is an interest in her actual criticism. I guess that probably includes me. Until picking this up in a charity shop over New Year I didn’t even realise she had written novels, a ...more
Eve Kay
Jul 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The darkness.
It's beautiful in its stillness, in it's silence.
This book holds that darkness, it spoke to me, not the writer, the darkness.
I did let it, though. So, I would guess, it needs a receiver.
Someone who is in desperate need of stories just like this.
Please, let there be more stories like this.
More darkness.
Jan 09, 2012 is currently reading it
I just started this book, and I have been reading it for the last few nights before felling asleep. Each morning I wake up wondering if what I read was just a strange dream, or if I had indeed read it. The author creates a very intangible, but vivid depiction of the events as they unfold in the mind of the main character.
vi macdonald
Susan Sontag: first rate essayist...third rate novelist...
Feb 28, 2009 is currently reading it
this book has no division and that is fucking hard to take some times.
Apr 26, 2019 rated it did not like it
Really thought this was rubbish. Read it cause it was Susan Sontag. Could hardly pay attention. At every turn you’re like “Does Sontag know what character motivation is?” Like no one’s words or decisions make any sense. This was hard to read because it was so disengaging. Even if the premise had potential.
Jordan Taylor
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
not sure how i feel about this one (now).

Will need to reflect and edit on diddy
Ryan Young
Nov 26, 2017 rated it liked it
really odd. i liked the writing but the story was unremarkable, despite being, as i said, odd.

Leigh Hewitt
Jul 26, 2015 rated it it was ok
I honestly have no idea what I thought of this. It focuses on hapless 33-year-old Diddy, who seems to be sleepwalking through his life until the point the novel begins. Susan Sontag attempts to place the reader into the action almost, with her insistence of using (now) repeatedly - something that I believe was actually a distraction, rather than a pull into the narrative. My confusion stems from whether the novel is based in reality or the surreal? From the point that Diddy takes Incardona's lif ...more
Jun 23, 2014 rated it it was ok
started out amazing, then went downhill very fast unfortunately. i read the german version, so i'm not sure if this was simply a huge translation error or an actual stylistic choice, but the seemingly random mixture of present and past tense drove me insane. also, conversations dragged out over pages and pages, yet the actual conflict still had to be pointed out. especially the "philosophical" problems the two main characters were having in their relationship didn't make any sense to me.
i love s
Oct 19, 2008 added it
Diddy the Good, Diddy the troubled takes a business trip. On the train, the Privateer, he may or may not have had sex (the best sex I've ever read) with a blind girl, and he may or may not have killed a Railroad worker. He tries to figure out the truth. Sontag's fiction amazes me - and I hear that her literary criticism/ essays are what she is known for.
Mar 01, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
"Death Kit" follows a Dalton "Diddy" Harron, a troubled 33 year old advertising executive, through a self-incriminating investigation. Set variously in upstate New York, New York City, and the deepest recesses of the American conscience, where we discover that the will to destroy may be the strongest impulse of all.

A disturbing and disjointed book, seeming at odds with Sontrag's later novels.
Oct 09, 2014 rated it it was ok
Started reading it with curiosity, was really intrigued,
then kinda uninterested. In the past I would have powered through, but I knew it wasn't in the cards. It's a bit dated (though racy for its time), and although I know I could learn something from reading it, I just couldn't keep going.
Apr 18, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not quite as brilliant as Susan Sontag's later novels, Death Kit is more experimental writing, more concerned with mood lighting then a message. This was a dark, confusing mixing of dream and reality and with far fewer striking observations and aphorisms as in her later writing.
Apr 05, 2010 rated it it was ok
dismal and tedious, i.e., succeeds? thanks a million, Sontag. harrowing: what if even your pre-death reverie is boring, despicable, random, loveless, perverse. what if there's two worlds, what if there's only the one.
Dec 28, 2014 marked it as to-read
Shelves: group-2015
1 September 2015
Deb Ramage
Jul 03, 2015 rated it it was ok
Very unsatisfying ending. But then I don't think the author was trying to satisfy anyone...
Aug 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Surreal and I must say, quite frightening.
Jen Hill
Feb 14, 2008 rated it liked it
fruatratingly obscure, like david lynch's mulholland drive. now that i know what it's about it makes sense. sort of.
Feb 11, 2009 marked it as to-read
holy macaroni! i must, must read this book!!
May 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
3.5 stars
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Jewish American literary critic, theorist, novelist, and filmmaker.
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“Diddy, not really alive, had a life. Hardly the same. Some people are their lives. Others, like Diddy, merely inhabit their lives. Like insecure tenants, never knowing exactly the extent of their property or when the lease will expire. Like unskilled cartographers, drawing and redrawing erroneous maps of an exotic continent.
Eventually, for such a person, everything is bound to run dow. The walls sag. Empty spaces bulge between objects. The surfaces of objects sweat, thin out, buckle. The hysterical fluids of fear deposited at the core of objects ooze out along the seams. Deploying things and navigating through space becomes laborious. Too much effort to amble from kitchen to living room, serving drinks, turning on the hi-fi, pretending to be cheerful . . .
Everything running down: suffusing the whole of Diddy's well-tended life. Like a house powered by one large generator in the basement. Diddy has an almost palpable sense of the decline of the generator's energy. Or, of the monstrous malfunctioning of that generator, gone amok. Sending forth a torrent of refuse that climbs up into Diddy's life, cluttering all his floor space and overwhelming his pleasant furnishings, so that he's forced to take refuge. Huddle in a narrow corner. But however small the space Diddy means to keep free for himself, it won't remain safe. If solid material can't invade it, then the offensive discharge of the failing or rebellious generator will liquefy; so that it can travel everywhere, spread like a skin. The generator will spew forth a stream of crude oil, grimy and malodorous, that coats all things and persons and objects, the vulgar as well as the precious, the ugly as well as what little still remains beautiful. Befouling Diddy's world and rendering it unusable. Uninhabitable.
This deliquescent running-down of everything becomes coexistent with Diddy's entire span of consciousness, undermines his most minimal acts. Getting out of bed is an agony unpromising as the struggles of a fish cast up on the beach, trying to extract life from the meaningless air. Persons who merely have a life customarily move in a dense fluid. That's how they're able to conduct their lives at all. Their living depends on not seeing. But when this fluid evaporates, an uncensored, fetid, appalling underlife is disclosed. Lost continents are brought to view, bearing the ruins of doomed cities, the sparsely fleshed skeletons of ancient creatures immobilized in their death throes, a landscape of unparalleled savagery.”
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