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Taking Refuge in the Loo

Leland de la Durantaye: Peter Handke, 22 May 2014

Versuch über den Pilznarren: Eine Geschichte für sich 
by Peter Handke.
Suhrkamp, 217 pp., £14.70, September 2013, 978 3 518 42383 7
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Peter Handke im Gespräch, mit Hubert Patterer und Stefan Winkler 
Kleine Zeitung, 120 pp., £15.36, November 2012, 978 3 902819 14 7Show More
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... monster’. Salman Rushdie nominated him ‘International Moron of the Year’ for 1999. Susan Sontag said that there were many many people who would never pick up one of his books again. Presenting the matter in the starkest possible terms, the human rights worker and novelist Jonathan Littell remarked in 2008: When a family is sitting in its ...

Mid-Century Male

Christopher Glazek: Edmund White, 19 July 2012

Jack Holmes and His Friend 
by Edmund White.
Bloomsbury, 390 pp., £18.99, January 2012, 978 1 4088 0579 4
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... artists’ – among them Jasper Johns, Cy Twombly, John Ashbery, Elizabeth Bishop, Susan Sontag, Harold Brodkey and Robert Wilson – who kept their sexuality hidden from public view, something White views with antipathy: ‘We openly gay artists had to deal with the dismissive or condescending judgments all around us – “Of course ...

Where Forty-Eight Avenue joins Petőfi Square

Jennifer Szalai: László Krasznahorkai, 26 April 2012

by László Krasznahorkai, translated by George Szirtes.
Atlantic, 320 pp., £12.99, May 2012, 978 1 84887 764 1
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... The Melancholy of Resistance ‘a book about a world into which the Leviathan has returned’, and Susan Sontag saw it as ‘both an anatomy of desolation, desolation at its most appalling, and a stirring manual of resistance to desolation – through inwardness’. Such endorsements have about them the ring of good intentions, as well as truth, but the ...

Perfect and Serene Oddity

Michael Hofmann: The Strangeness of Robert Walser, 16 November 2006

Speaking to the Rose: Writings, 1912-32 
by Robert Walser, translated and edited by Christopher Middleton.
Nebraska, 128 pp., £9.99, November 2005, 0 8032 9833 1
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... having been the object of your attentions. It’s like nailing the proverbial jelly to the wall. Susan Sontag talks about him slipping through the net of comparisons. It’s perhaps not beside the point to recall that when a very young man, Walser wanted to be an actor, and while that ambition may have been squelched in the course of a typically ...

Princess Diane

Penny Boumelha, 21 February 1985

Diane Arbus: A Biography 
by Patricia Bosworth.
Heinemann, 367 pp., £14.95, January 1985, 0 434 08150 7
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Inside the Onion 
by Howard Nemerov.
Chicago, 63 pp., £8.45, April 1984, 0 226 57244 7
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... illuminates the work for us. There is, of course, a temptingly easy connection between the two. As Susan Sontag has remarked, Arbus’s suicide, like Sylvia Plath’s, has become a kind of credential of sincerity. The death stands in for the compassion which the photographs can be said to lack. It has often been claimed, and is here claimed once more by ...

Many Andies

Andrew O’Hagan, 16 October 1997

Shoes, Shoes, Shoes 
by Andy Warhol.
Bulfinch Press, 35 pp., $10.95, May 1997, 0 8212 2319 4
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Style, Style, Style 
by Andy Warhol.
Bulfinch Press, 30 pp., $10.95, May 1997, 0 8212 2320 8
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Who is Andy Warhol? 
edited by Colin MacCabe, Mark Francis and Peter Wollen.
BFI, 162 pp., £40, May 1997, 9780851705880
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All Tomorrow’s Parties: Billy Name’s Photographs of Andy Warhol’s Factory 
by Billy Name.
frieze, 144 pp., £19.95, April 1997, 0 9527414 1 5
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The Last Party: Studio 54, Disco and the Culture of the Night 
by Anthony Haden-Guest.
Morrow, 404 pp., $25, April 1996, 9780688141516
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... so, in his way, Warhol predated all the pink thinkers on Camp sensibility. It would be 1964 before Susan Sontag emerged with her ‘Notes on Camp’, which read nowadays, in their arch solemnity, like some kind of ambush on the tendency itself, and which must be among the least effectively stylised pronouncements on the virtues of American ...

Much to be endured

D.J. Enright, 27 June 1991

Samuel Johnson in the Medical World: The Doctor and the Patient 
by John Wiltshire.
Cambridge, 293 pp., £30, March 1991, 0 521 38326 9
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... disease) are finely felicitous at the opening of the Levet poem. In Illness as Metaphor Susan Sontag considers a degenerate usage: expressions like ‘the cancer of racism’ suggest that cancer sufferers are somehow affiliated with racists – ‘moral lepers’, you might (also hurtfully) say. Though peevishness is hardly a mortal ...

Unfashionable Victims

Charles Simic, 31 July 1997

The Serbs: History, Myth and the Destruction of Yugoslavia 
by Tim Judah.
Yale, 368 pp., £19.95, April 1997, 0 300 07113 2
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... the mass killings of Serbs in World War Two, they were supposed to hold their breath and wait for Susan Sontag or Bernard Henri Levy to take up their cause. It is important to understand that even if Mahatma Gandhi had been the President of Serbia there would still have been a Serbian problem to solve. Yugoslavia made sense for the simple reason that ...


Adam Shatz, 16 April 2020

... on us.’It would be a mistake to call Covid-19 nature’s revenge, except as a metaphor. As Susan Sontag argued, illness has no ‘meaning’, and interpreting it runs the risk of stigmatising its carriers – particularly if they can be depicted as in some way ‘other’: foreign, sexually ‘deviant’, non-white. Trump’s fulminations against ...

Adulterers’ Distress

Philip Horne, 21 July 1983

A Nail on the Head 
by Clare Boylan.
Hamish Hamilton, 135 pp., £7.95, July 1983, 0 241 11001 7
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New Stories 8: An Arts Council Anthology 
edited by Karl Miller.
Hutchinson, 227 pp., £8.95, May 1983, 9780091523800
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The Handyman 
by Penelope Mortimer.
Allen Lane, 199 pp., £6.95, May 1983, 0 7139 1364 9
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Open the Door 
by Rosemary Manning.
Cape, 180 pp., £7.95, June 1983, 0 224 02112 5
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A Boy’s Own Story 
by Edmund White.
Picador, 218 pp., £2.50, July 1983, 0 330 28151 8
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... Half Brother’ by Francis Wyndham, an account of a black sheep step-brother; ‘Remembrance’ by Susan Boyd, which touches on the subject of a dead grandmother; and ‘Trotsky’s Other Son’ by Carol Singh, a story describing a Marxist who ran a bookshop in a Nottingham slum in the early Sixties. ‘Women with Bicycle’ by Jane Oxenford and the brief ...


David Denby: Deaths on Camera, 8 September 2016

... there is nothing wrong with it. In one of her last books, Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), Susan Sontag discussed the ethical complications of looking at ‘extreme’ images – in Sontag’s case, still photographs of war, the Holocaust, ethnic cleansing. Sontag rejected the ...

Hang on to the doily

Jenny Diski: Catherine M., 25 July 2002

The Sexual Life of Catherine M. 
by Catherine Millet, translated by Adriana Hunter.
Serpent’s Tail, 192 pp., £12, June 2002, 1 85242 811 2
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... the book is not pornography. It sets out to make sex smaller than it seems to be, whereas what Susan Sontag calls literary pornography contrives to do the opposite. In Story of the Eye, as in most erotic work, there is an underlying rage against inescapable loss, a nihilism that comes from the knowledge of the impermanence of flesh and ...

How Dare He?

Jenny Turner: Geoff Dyer, 11 June 2009

Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi 
by Geoff Dyer.
Canongate, 295 pp., £12.99, April 2009, 978 1 84767 270 4
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... writing this ‘half-arsed book’. If writers need to be ‘interested in everything’ – as Susan Sontag once said – when do they ever get time off? Loafing, getting stoned, hanging about on sun-kissed café terraces: for most people, such things are rare, and about the best that life can offer (Dyer also writes, frequently and unruffledly, about ...


Jenny Turner: Martin Amis, 22 April 2010

The Pregnant Widow 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 470 pp., £18.99, February 2010, 978 0 224 07612 8
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... hope he’d get over it. ‘Someone who is perennially surprised that depravity exists,’ as Susan Sontag wrote in Regarding the Pain of Others, ‘has not reached moral or psychological adulthood. No one after a certain age has the right to this kind of innocence, of superficiality, to this degree of ignorance, or amnesia.’ In The Pregnant ...

Mother-Haters and Other Rebels

Barbara Taylor: Heroine Chic, 3 January 2002

Inventing Herself: Claiming a Feminist Intellectual Heritage 
by Elaine Showalter.
Picador, 384 pp., £16.99, June 2001, 0 330 34669 5
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... in a ‘Cossack minidress’, she tried to bamboozle her way into Partisan Review by imitating Susan Sontag); and, eventually, in the feminist academy (where her Princeton colleague Ann Douglas – ‘a rebel, a genius, a flash of light’ in a ‘green Diane Von Furstenberg wrap-dress’ – became an idol). Heroine-worship, in other words, is a real ...

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