Susan Sontag, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $27 (288p) ISBN 978-0-374-28917-1

One of the few Americans to manage superbly the dual roles of public intellectual and novelist, Sontag, whose novel In America won a National Book Award in 2000, reaches a big audience even as she divides critics. First and foremost an essayist, Sontag tackles varied interests that are compelling in part for their apparent randomness. This new collection of occasional articles includes punditry on literature, film, photography, theater and her own literary career, among other subjects. Once a champion of then-lesser-known writers like Jorge Luis Borges and Roland Barthes, she now boosts the worthy Brazilian novelist Machado de Assis and Swiss writer Robert Walser. Sometimes her enthused advocacy seems overstated, such as when she argues a little too forcefully for Glenway Wescott as a novelist and for the poet Adam Zagajewski as a prose writer. A sugary memorial for New York City Ballet founder Lincoln Kirstein is also inadequate on many levels. Still, Sontag's appetite for trends and achievements is still so fierce, and she switches subjects so quickly and lithely, that if one short essay does not convince, the next one probably will. One can't help admiring the conviction evident in "Waiting for Godot in Sarajevo," her account of directing a Beckett play in the war-torn city. There is no one quite like Sontag, and her many admirers will enjoy following up on her reading tips and engaging in debate with her via this book. (Sept.)

Forecast: Expect solid sales among Sontag's fans, some of whom will pick this book up as a first foray into her essays. For those who need assistance in entering the Sontag oeuvre, biographer and Baruch College professor Carl Rollyson's Reading Susan Sontag: An Introduction to Her Work is forthcoming in October (Ivan R. Dee).

Reviewed on: 08/20/2001
Release date: 09/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-312-42131-1
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Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-14-119021-1
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