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The Scandal of Susan Sontag.

Edited by Barbara Ching and Jennifer


Columbia University Press. 264 pages, $24.50

This collection of essays examines the work of Susan Sontag, from her novels and essays to less familiar plays and films, and even includes a discussion of Annie Leibovitz's controversial photos of the writer. In "Some Notes on 'Notes on Camp,'" Terry Castle suggests that Sontag's famous essay was her rather coy way of announcing her own homosexuality, by including as camp certain actresses known for either being lesbian or playing lesbian roles. Castle links the love of camp to Freud's conception of the "family romance," the child's fantasy that her real parents are more glamorous and sophisticated than the ones she's forced to live with now. Gays and lesbians, Castle explains, having experienced great trauma growing up and relying on this fantasy more than most children, can use camp to "mediate between childhood outrage and a more sophisticated adult self." By treating as beautiful things normally considered grotesque, gays can exercise a sort of control over the ugliness of their own childhood. In "Metaphors Kill," Jay Prosser explores Sontag's essay "Against Interpretation" and her books Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors, as well as her son David Rieff's memoir Swimming in a Sea of Death. Sontag argued so forcefully against using metaphors to describe illness because she wanted patients to face the reality of their situation. However, as her son reveals, she feared death and refused to think about it, making her final suffering from cancer all the more painful because she kept trying to stave off the end. Perhaps, Prosser argues, metaphors might have given her comfort and acceptance to face her death. As Prosser writes, "Metaphors may kill but they also make some things sayable and bearable." The. Scandal of Susan Sontag offers revealing insights into the work of one of America's most famous and provocative intellectuals.

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Author:Green, Charles
Publication:The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide
Article Type:Brief article
Date:Jul 1, 2010
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