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 A human rights activist for more than two decades, Ms. Sontag served from 1987 to 1989

as president of the American Center of PEN, the international writers' organization

 dedicated to freedom of expression and the advancement of literature



Books by Susan Sontag

In America / I, Etcetera / The Volcano Lover / Illness as Metaphor / Aids and Metaphors / Against Interpretation and Other Essays

Styles of Radical Will / The Story of the Eye / Under the Sign of Saturn On Photography  / Regarding the Pain of Others

Where the Stress Falls / Homo Poeticus / Conversations with Susan Sontag / Alice in Bed / A Susan Sontag Reader

Death Kit / Duet for Cannibals / The Benefactor

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Regarding the Pain of Others

By Susan Sontag (1933 - )

Biography and Bibliography


One of America's best-known and most admired writers, Susan Sontag was born in New York City in 1933, grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and attended high school in Los Angeles. She received her B.A. from the College of the University of Chicago and did graduate work in philosophy, literature, and theology at Harvard University and Saint Anne's College, Oxford.

Her books include four novels, The Benefactor, Death Kit,  The Volcano Lover, and In America; a collection of short stories,I, Etcetera; a play, Alice in Bed; and six works of nonfiction, starting with Against Interpretation and including On Photography  and Illness as Metaphor . In 1982, Farrar, Straus and Giroux published A Susan Sontag Reader, in 2001, Where the Stress Falls a collection of forty-one essays. Styles of Radical Will , another essay collected appeared in 2002.

Her stories and essays have appeared in THE NEW YORKER, THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS, THE TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT, ART IN AMERICA, ANTAEUS, PARNASSUS, THE THREEPENNY REVIEW, THE NATION, GRANTA, and many other magazines here and abroad. Her much anthologized story "The Way We Live Now" (1987) was chosen for inclusion in THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES OF THE EIGHTIES and, more recently, in THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES OF THE CENTURY, edited by John Updike.

Her books are translated into twenty-six languages. Ms. Sontag has written and directed four feature-length films: Duet for Cannibals (1969) and Brother Carl (1971), both in Sweden; PROMISED LANDS (1974), made in Israel during the war of October 1973; and UNGUIDED TOUR (1983), from her short story of the same name, made in Italy. Her play Alice in Bed has had many productions in the United States, Mexico, Germany, and Holland. A more recent play, Lady from the Sea, has been produced in Italy, France, Switzerland, and Korea.

Ms. Sontag has also directed plays in the United States and Europe; her most recent theater work was a staging of Beckett's WAITING FOR GODOT in the summer of 1993 in besieged Sarajevo, where she spent much of the time between early 1993 and 1996 and was made an honorary citizen of the city.

A human rights activist for more than two decades, Ms. Sontag served from 1987 to 1989 as president of the American Center of PEN, the international writers' organization dedicated to freedom of expression and the advancement of literature, from which platform she led a number of campaigns on behalf of persecuted and imprisoned writers.

Among Ms. Sontag's many honors are the 2001 Jerusalem Prize, the National Book Award for In America (2000), and the National Book Critics Circle Award for On Photography (1978). In 1992 she received the Malaparte Prize in Italy, and in 1999 she was named a Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government (she had been named an Officier in the same order in 1984). Between 1990 and 1995 she was a MacArthur Fellow. Ms. Sontag lives in New York City. She is at work on another collection of short fiction.

You can also read more about Ms. Sontag's life and views by reading her conversation with Bill Moyers an by visiting her Web site, which provides excerpts from all her books. You can sample Sontag's work as a critic by visiting THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS' Sontag page, which offers dozens of her essays dating between 1963 and 2003.

American 'new intellectual' and writer, a leading commentator on modern culture, whose innovative essays on such diverse subjects as camp, pornographic literature, fascist aesthetics, photography, AIDS, and revolution have gained a wide attention. Sontag has published novels and short stories, and written and directed films. She had a great impact on experimental art in the 1960s and 1970s and she introduced many new ideas to American culture.

"Like guns and cars, cameras are fantasy-machines whose use is addictive. However, despite the extravagances of ordinary language and advertising, they are not lethal. In the hyperbole that markets cars like guns, there is at least this much truth: except in wartime, cars kill more people than guns do. The camera/gun does not kill, so the ominous metaphor seems to be all bluff - like a man's fantasy of having a gun, knife, or tool between his legs." (from On Photography , 1977)

Susan Sontag was born in New York, N.Y. Sontag's father, Jack Rosenblatt, had a fur trading business in China - he died of pulmonary tuberculosis when she was five. Her mother, Mildred, married Capt. Nathan Sontag seven years later. Sontag grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and Los Angeles California, and entered at the age of fifteen (1948) the University of California at Berkeley. After a year she transferred to the University of Chicago, and graduated in 1951. Sontag married in her sophomore year the 28-year-old Philip Rieff, a sociology instructor; they divorced in the late 1950s. Sontag moved with Rieff to Boston and continued her studies at Harvard, where she was a Ph.D. candidate from 1955-1957.

In 1957-58 Sontag studied at the University of Paris. She worked as a lecturer in philosophy at the City College of New York and Sarah Lawrence. From 1960 to 1964 she was an instructor in the religion department of Columbia University, and then a writer-in-residence for one year at Rutgers. In the 1960s Sontag's connection with the Partisan Review brought her in close contact with the 'New York intellectuals'. She contributed to various other periodicals, including New York Review of Books, Atlantic Monthly, Nation, and Harper's.

As a novelist Sontag started her career at the age of 30 with The Benefactor. The heavily symbolic work was partly a pastiche of the 19th-century Bildungsroman, a novel about the formation of character. In the story the protagonist, Hippolyte, a wealthy man, attempts to make his daily life conform to his bizarre dreams and to have them to serve as solutions to his normal life. Hippolyte finally achieves complete freedom by rejecting outside interpretations of his real/dream life, and finds peace at living in silence. The novel prepared way for Sontag's essays about art - she stated that people should not attempt to find the 'meaning' in a work of art but experience it as a thing in itself.

On the bohemian New York scene of the early sixties, Sontag swiftly acquired a reputation as the radical-liberal American woman, who had not only deep knowledge ancient and modern European culture, but could also reinterpret it from the American point of view. A selection of her writings appeared in Against Interpretation and Other Essays (1968), where she stated that the understanding of art starts from intuitive response and not from analysis or intellectual considerations.

"A work of art is a thing in the world, not just text or commentary on the world." Rejecting interpretation, Sontag advocated what she called 'transparency', which means 'experiencing the luminousness of thing in itself, of things being what they are'. The 'meaning' of art lies in the experiencing both style and content together without analysis. "Interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art." Sontag's other influential works include The Styles of Radical Will (1969), which continued her explorations of contemporary culture and such phenomena as drugs, pornography, cinema and modern art and music.

On Photography  (1976) was a study of the force of photographic images which are continually inserted between experience and reality. Sontag developed further the concept of 'transparency'. When anything can be photographed and photography has destroyed the boundaries and definitions of art, a viewer can approach a photograph freely with no expectations of discovering what it means. Later the famous celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz, Sontag's close friend, has told that her views have deeply influenced her life. "When I first met her, she said, 'You could be good,' and I've always been trying to rise to that place," Leibovitz said in an interview.

Illness and Metaphor (1978) was written after Sontag's cancer treatment. Her point was that although illness is used often punitatively as a figure or metaphor, the most truthful way is to resist such metaphoric thinking. The book was later revised and expanded as Aids and Metaphors (1988).

"If consistency is truly the hobgoblin of little minds, Sontag's mind must be very large, for she has never been stopped by her own last pronouncement. In the past decade, for instance, while continuing to champion the kind of elliptical European fiction that meets her much elaborated and stringent critical standards, she began writing best-selling, plot-heavy novels. But whatever the position or wherever the situation, Sontag has managed to hold the limelight as few of her kind have done." (Daphne Merkin in 'The Dark Lady of the Intellectuals', The New York Times on the Web, October 29, 2000)

Sontag's second novel, Death Kit (1967), a was a nightmarish meditation on life, death and the relationship between the two. Like in The Benefactor, the fragmented protagonist cannot always distinguish between dream and reality. Sontag's short stories, I, Etcetera, appeared in 1977. In 1992 Sontag published her third novel, The Volcano Lover, which became a bestseller. It has been translated among others into Finnish. The story was set in the 18th century, and depicted a drama between the 56-year- old ambassador sir William Hamilton, his 20-year-old wife Lady Emma Hamilton, and the hero of the age, Lord Nelson, who won Napoleon but lost his victory for a woman. It is also a story of revolution and the position of women, written in a manner that approaches the formality of late 18th-century English. After the appearance of the book Sontag has declared that she will concentrate on writing fiction rather than essays.

"The principal instances of mass violence in the world today are those committed by governments within their own legally recognized borders. Can we really say there is no response to this? Is it acceptable that such slaughters be dismissed as civil wars, also known as ''age-old ethnic hatreds.'' (After all, anti-Semitism was an old tradition in Europe; indeed, a good deal older than ancient Balkan hatreds. Would this have justified letting Hitler kill all the Jews on German territory?) Is it true that war never solved anything? (Ask a black American if he or she thinks our Civil War didn't solve anything.)" (from 'Why Are We in Kosovo?' 1999)

Sontag's novel In America (1999) was based on a real story. It depicted a woman's search for self-transformation. The protagonist is Maryna Zalewska, an actress, who travels in 1876 with her family and a group of Poles to California to found a "utopian" commune. When the commune fails, Maryna returns successfully on the stage. The work received the National Book Award in 2000. Where the Stress Falls  (2001), a collection of essays, made William Deresiewicz in The New York Times attack on Sontag's position as America's leading intellectual: "While Where the Stress Falls  won't do much to enhance her stature as a thinker, never before has she made such large claims for her moral pre-eminence, her exemplary fulfillment of the intellectual's mission as society's conscience.

In effect, she's the first person in a long while to nominate herself so publicly for sainthood." (The New York Times, November 4, 2001) The novelist Lisa Appignanesi notes in her review that what sets Sontag apart from most of her academic contemporaries is that "if they care, they can't seem to think; and if they can think, they're often too grand to care" (from Independent, 19 January 2002).

In addition to essays and novels, Sontag has written screenplays for experimental films and edited selected writings of Roland Barthes and Antonin Artaud (1976). Homo Poeticus (1995) is a selection of Danilo Kis' essays and interviews, in which Sontag has written an introduction. Among Sontag's several awards are American Academy Ingram Merrill Foundation Award (1976), National Book Critics Circle Award (1977), Academy of Sciences and Literature Award (Germany, 1979). She was appointed in 1979 Member of American Academy. In 1990 Sontag received a five-year fellowship from the MacArthur Foundation. Her private life Sontag has kept carefully guarded. However, in an interview in The New York Times she told that she had loved both men and women.

For further reading: Susan Sontag: The Elegiac Modernist by Sohnya Sayres (1989); Conversations with Susan Sontag by Leland Poague (1995); Susan Sontag: Mind as Passion by Liam Kennedy (1995); Susan Sontag: The Making of an Icon by Carl Rollyson and Lisa Paddock (2000) - Films and filmscripts: Duet for Cannibals (1970), Brother Carl (1974), Promised Lands (1974), Unguided Tour (1983) - Suom.: Sontagilta on myös suomennettu essee Lihan estetiikka: teatteri Artaud'n mukaan (1968) ja Vallankumouksen taide (1971).

Selected works:

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#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All

By Russell Simmons

Russell Simmons knows firsthand that wealth is rooted in much more than the stock  market. True wealth has more to do with what's in your heart than what's in your wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons became one of America's shrewdest entrepreneurs, achieving a level of success that most investors only dream about. No matter how much material gain he accumulated, he never stopped lending a hand to those less fortunate. In Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare blend of spiritual savvy and street-smart wisdom to offer a new definition of wealth-and share timeless principles for developing an unshakable sense of self that can weather any financial storm. As Simmons says, "Happy can make you money, but money can't make you happy."

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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Related files: Regarding the Pain of Others Reviews   Sontag Bibliography