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Making monsters out of molehills: reading the life of Susan Sontag

Throughout her life, the leading public intellectual refused to behave like a pleasing secondary being

Benjamin Moser's new biography seems irritated that its storied subject hasn't lived up to the 'good life'. Photo: TT News Agency/Press Association Images

In 1997, Susan Sontag, arguably America’s leading public intellectual, answered some questions for a French literary magazine. Sontag, as ever forthright, said that she was partial to the independent, non-specialist intellectual who was committed to the importance of the life of the mind, who had “certain standards of probity and responsibility” and strengthened “scepticism about received opinion.” At the same time, she took aim at the…

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