Sontag wasn't sufficiently interested in real-life details, the lifeblood of fiction, but only in ideas. She also wrote and directed films, which were not well-reviewed: I have not seen these myself, but there is time enough to do so, for I have long assumed that they are playing as a permanent double feature in the only movie theater in hell.In case you didn't get the message that Epstein didn't like her he comments that -
In the end, Susan Sontag may have been most notable as a photographic subject and for the querulous interview, of which she gave a bookful (see "Conversations With Susan Sontag.") She was photographed by the best in the business, in poses sexy, earnest, sultry, brainy and sublimely detached. She did the siren in a thousand faces. Her last partner, Annie Leibovitz, is, appropriately, best known as a celebrity photographer. Sontag's obituary in the New York Times was accompanied by no fewer than four photographs — an instance of intellectual cheesecake.And -
If Susan Sontag had been a less striking woman when younger, her ideas would not have had the reach that they did. Something similar could be said about Mary McCarthy, another attractive writer, who claimed that Sontag was "the imitation me." Today, more than six years after Sontag's death, not her writing — as a prose stylist she gave no pleasure — but only the phenomenon of Susan Sontag is of interest.
"Intelligence," Sontag wrote, "is really a kind of taste: taste in ideas." In her thrall to ideas she resembles the pure type of the intellectual. The difficulty, though, was in the quality of so many of her ideas, most of which cannot be too soon forgot. Her worst offenses in this line were in politics, where her specialty was extravagant utterance.Andrew Roberts in the WSJ adopts the same tone in his review of Lelyveld's Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi And His Struggle With India (New York: Knopf 2011) -
During the Vietnam War, Sontag went off to Hanoi as one of those people Lenin called "useful idiots"—that is, people who could be expected to defend Communism without any interest in investigating the brutality behind it. There she found the North Vietnamese people noble and gentle, if a touch boring and puritanical for her tastes. Doubtless that trip led to her most famous foolish remark, when she said that "the white race is the cancer of human history," later revising this judgment by noting that it was a slander on cancer. Hers was the standard leftist view on Israel, which was — natch — that it is a racist and imperialist country. All her political views were left-wing commonplace, noteworthy only because of her extreme statement of them.
"Great Soul" ... obligingly gives readers more than enough information to discern that he was a sexual weirdo, a political incompetent and a fanatical faddist — one who was often downright cruel to those around him. Gandhi was therefore the archetypal 20th-century progressive intellectual, professing his love for mankind as a concept while actually despising people as individuals.George Scialabba emotes from the other direction -
Gandhi is, to my mind, the gold standard of 20th-century political greatness. He produced tremendous effects, overwhelmingly good, and he achieved them not by luck, force, or guile but virtuously, by persuasion and example. Martin Luther King is perhaps his peer in these respects, but the scale of Gandhi's accomplishment was much greater. ...
Lelyveld's probing account of the visionary-as-politician reveals that, as one might expect, the politician often prevailed over the visionary. The Mahatma had a remarkable capacity for compromise, and even for nimble rationalization. But he was morally serious, a genuine "great soul," and thus lacked the true politician's talent for convenient self-deception. "By the end," Lelyveld writes, he was "forced to recognized that the great majority of his supposed followers hadn't followed him very far," spiritually speaking.