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Last updated on March 6th, 2018 at 12:30 am
To some minds, Peter Craven may seem to slightly overstate Susan Sontag’s luminous supergreatness:
In the face of both art and life – call it politics if you like – she brought a quality of seriousness, a stringency of attention, that was the opposite of trivialising: it made people feel that watching a movie or listening to a pop song, reading a poem or a novel was what the world rested on; it was a momentous thing like the politics we had to endure … Liberal anger – and the truth-telling that went with it – was wired into this woman.
Craven’s idea of Sontag’s “truth telling” is her condemnation of Australia for sending troops “to this hideous war. Not even Canada did that.” Kevin Myers takes an opposing view:
A brilliant intellect can often be the companion to a truly asinine personality – so step forward, Susan Sontag, and take a bow. Admittedly, the vainglorious silliness that was her most salient characteristic did not lead her to embrace the Marxism of so many similarly silly Cambridge intellectuals. But it did cause her to emulate within American public life the role of “intellectuals” in France: insufferably self-important and posturing creatures like Barthes, Foucault, Derrida. They were best characterised in the immortal words of that truly great English philosopher, Terry-Thomas: “What an absolute sharr.”
But wretched, credulous, self-hating American academia wanted to fawn on an intellectual whom popular culture could celebrate, and it chose Sontag and her vapid aphorisms. “The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own;” or: “What pornography is really about, ultimately, isn’t sex but death;” or: “Sanity is a cosy lie;” or: “Good health is the passing delusion of the doomed.”
Well, actually, the last one is mine. We can all do this kind of poser-cleverness, but we’ll never find our way into any dictionaries of quotation because one has to have a certain academic status before one’s pseudo-sage declarations come to be exalted as “sayings”. Yet Susan Sontag, the ridiculous heroine of US campus culture, couldn’t even count to three: “The two pioneering forces of modern sensibility are Jewish seriousness and homosexual aestheticism and irony.”
Read the whole thing. The headline should win awards.