Against Interpretation: And Other Essays
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Against Interpretation was Susan Sontag's first collection of essays and is a modern classic. Originally published in 1966, it has never gone out of print and has influenced generations of readers all over the world. It includes the famous essays "Notes on Camp" and "Against Interpretation," as well as her impassioned discussions of Sartre, Camus, Simone Weil, Godard, Beckett, Levi-Strauss, sceince-fiction movies, psychoanalysis, and contemporary religious thought.
This edition has a new afterword, "Thirty Years Later," in which Sontag restates the terms of her battle against philistinism and against ethical shallowness and indifference.
which (along with my favorites from the silent era and the 1930s) I saw again and again, so exalting were their freedom and inventiveness of narrative method, their sensuality and gravity and beauty. Cinema was the exemplary art activity during the time these essays were written, but there were astonishments in the other arts as well. Fresh winds were blowing everywhere. Artists were insolent again, as they’d been after World War I until the rise of fascism. The modern was still a vibrant idea.
dogmas of 19th century “realism,” by a passionate commitment to the idea of progress in art and a hectic quest for new idioms and new materials, the novel has proved unable to assimilate whatever of genuine quality and spiritual ambition has been performed in its name in the 20th century. It has sunk to the level of an art form deeply, if not irrevocably, compromised by philistinism. When one thinks of giants like Proust, Joyce, the Gide of Lafcadio, Kafka, the Hesse of Steppenwolf, Genet, or
fantasy. Nothing is more attractive in a person, but it is extremely rare after the age of four. This is the quality Harpo Marx has; Langdon and Keaton among the great silent comics have it; so do those four wonderful floppy Raggedy Andy dolls, the Beatles. Tammy Grimes projects something of it in her very stylized and exciting performance in an otherwise unremarkable Broadway musical now running, High Spirits, which is based on Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit. (The marvellous Bea Lillie is in it,
mostly conveyed through Forestier’s monologue, Godard’s camera is freed to become an instrument of contemplation—of certain aspects of events, and of characters. Quiet “events”—Karina’s face, the façade of buildings, passing through the city by car—are studied by the camera, in a way that somewhat isolates the violent action. The images seem arbitrary sometimes, expressing a kind of emotional neutrality; at other times, they indicate an intense involvement. It is as though Godard hears, then
They obliterate him. In The War of the Worlds, the ray which issues from the rocket ship disintegrates all persons and objects in its path, leaving no trace of them but a light ash. In Honda’s The H-Man (1959), the creeping blob melts all flesh with which it comes in contact. If the blob, which looks like a huge hunk of red Jello and can crawl across floors and up and down walls, so much as touches your bare foot, all that is left of you is a heap of clothes on the floor. (A more articulated,