Robert Atwan, editor of the Best American Essays series, chooses the top ten essays since 1950 for PW's Tipsheet. All but three of the top essays are available to read online and linked in the article. (via)
The Atlantic Monthly has helpfully indexed literary interviews from its archives. These include, among others, Alice Munro, Chinua Achebe, Dennis Lehane, Zadie Smith, Charles Simic, Salman Rushdie, Susan Sontag and John Irving.
Which came first: Cannonballs On or Cannonballs Off? Errol Morris asks a seemingly simple but perhaps unanswerable question about the nature of photographic evidence. (previously) [more inside]
Susan Sontag's last book, Regarding the Pain of Others, received some praise when it was released, but it was overshadowed by her death and by her NYTimes article with a similar name but a different message. Yet Luc Sante and Jim Lewis debated it, the Observer panned it, and everyone ignored its message: "[P]hotographs of the victims of war are themselves a species of rhetoric. They reiterate. They simplify. They agitate. They create the illusion of consensus.... No one after a certain age has the right to this kind of innocence, of superficiality, to this degree of ignorance, or amnesia."
Extracts from the journals of Susan Sontag dating from the 1950s and 1960s were published in this morning's Guardian G2.
On the Great Atlantic Divide Published on Sunday, October 26, 2003 by TomDispatch.com. By Susan Sontag. I came across this piece at dailyKos "Two weeks ago during the Frankfurt Book Fair, the Association of German Publishers and Booksellers awarded the Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels (the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade) to Susan Sontag. She was cited for standing up for "the dignity of free thinking" and for her role as an "intellectual ambassador" between the United States and Europe. The association's director Dieter Schormann commented, "In a world of false images and distorted truths, she defends the honor of free thought." In its over half-century of existence, the Friedenspreis Prize has been awarded to Chinua Achebe, Max Frisch, Jurgen Habermas, Yehudi Menuhin, and Vaclav Havel among many others. An excerpt from Susan Sontag's acceptance speech was published today in the Los Angeles Times Book Review section, but I thought the whole speech, which focuses on the increasingly embattled relationship between Europe and the United States, or rather between much of Europe, especially the various peoples of Europe, and the Bush administration, was well worth reproducing as a whole. Near its end is a rare moment in which Sontag considers an aspect of her early life in public. Her most recent book, by the way, is Regarding the Pain of Others. What follows then, with her kind permission, is her full acceptance speech. (The title and subheads are, however, mine.) Tom "
Susan Sontag gave an interview that was broadcast on BookTV via CSPAN2 back on Sunday, March 2nd. It was an impressive and in depth 3 hour program. It is now available online here for Realplayer. This is not the sort of thing your ever going to see on commercial television.
What war looks like. Susan Sontag has written an important essay on the intricate relationship we have with images of human suffering (e.g., war photography) in the December 9 issue of The New Yorker. A sample:
Perhaps the only people with the right to look at images of suffering of this extreme order [i.e., gruesome combat horrors] are those who could do something to alleviate it – say, the surgeons at the military hospital where the photograph was taken – or those who could learn from it. The rest of us are voyeurs, whether we like it or not.The essay is not online but there is an excellent introduction with links to other galleries of the imagery discussed. With a new war likely on the way, her essay provides a timely set of insights into wartime suffering and how it is usually depicted, often manipulated, and never understood.