Susan Sontag


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The Complete Rolling Stone Interview

Jonathan Cott

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Published in its entirety for the first time, a candid conversation with Susan Sontag at the height of her brilliant career

“A humanizing interview with the late cultural icon, who was often perceived as a fiercely aggressive and polarizing intellect.”—Kirkus Reviews

Susan Sontag, one of the most internationally renowned and controversial intellectuals of the latter half of the twentieth century, still provokes. In 1978 Jonathan Cott, a founding contributing editor of Rolling Stone magazine, interviewed Sontag first in Paris and later in New York. Only a third of their twelve hours of discussion ever made it to print. Published more than three decades later, this book provides the entire transcript of Sontag’s remarkable conversation, accompanied by Cott’s preface and recollections.
Sontag’s musings and observations reveal the passionate engagement and breadth of her critical intelligence and curiosities at a moment when she was at the peak of her powers. Nearly a decade after her death, these hours of conversation offer a revelatory and indispensable look at the self-described "besotted aesthete" and "obsessed moralist."

“I really believe in history, and that’s something people don’t believe in anymore. I know that what we do and think is a historical creation. . . .We were given a vocabulary that came into existence at a particular moment. So when I go to a Patti Smith concert, I enjoy, participate, appreciate, and am tuned in better because I’ve read Nietzsche.”

“There’s no incompatibility between observing the world and being tuned into this electronic, multimedia, multi-tracked, McLuhanite world and enjoying what can be enjoyed. I love rock and roll. Rock and roll changed my life. . . .You know, to tell you the truth, I think rock and roll is the reason I got divorced. I think it was Bill Haley and the Comets and Chuck Berry that made me decide that I had to get a divorce and leave the academic world and start a new life.”


Jonathan Cott is the author of numerous books, including most recently, Days That I'll Remember: Spending Time with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. He lives in New York City. Susan Sontag (1933–2004) was the author of numerous works of nonfiction, including the groundbreaking collection of essays Against Interpretation, On Photography, and Illness as Metaphor, and of four novels, including In America, which won the National Book Award.
“A great resource for longtime followers of the critic and novelist, as well as for those encountering this great mind for the first time.”—Publishers Weekly
“A humanizing interview with the late cultural icon, who was often perceived as a fiercely aggressive and polarizing intellect.”—Kirkus Reviews
“This long and largely genial portrait of the (not always quite so genial) intellectual in middle age also amounts to a strong and deeply personal argument about what it means to be cultured.”—Mark O’Connell, Slate

"The full, wide-ranging magnificence of their tête-à-tête, spanning literature,  philosophy, illness, mental health, music, art, and much more, is at last released. . . . A rare glimpse of one of modern history's greatest minds in her element."—Maria Popova, Brain Pickings; selected by Popova as one of the best books of 2013

“[Sontag] is terrific at opening doors to the originality of others, and that makes her a beguiling and enduring teacher. Her tone is penetrating but never shrill and she is memorable on illness, literature, art, love, and sex…overall this book serves up a delicious intellectual lunch.”—Duncan Fallowell, Taki’s Magazine

One of Brain Pickings's Best Books of 2013, selected by Maria Popova.
ISBN: 9780300199024
Publication Date: October 28, 2014
168 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4

Sales Restrictions: Not for sale on Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh; Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives)