Regarding the Pain of Others Hardcover – Mar 15 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Twenty-six years after the publication of her influential collection of essays On Photography (1977), Sontag (In America) reconsiders ideas that are "now fast approaching the status of platitudes," especially the view that our capacity to respond to images of war and atrocity is being dulled by "the relentless diffusion of vulgar and appalling images" in our rapaciously media-driven culture. Sontag opens by describing Virginia Woolf's essay on the roots of war, "Three Guineas," in which Woolf described a set of gruesome photographs of mutilated bodies and buildings destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. Woolf wondered if there truly can be a "we" between man and woman in matters of war. Sontag sets out to reopen and enlarge the question. "No `we' should be taken for granted when the subject is looking at other people's pain," she writes. The "we" that Sontag has come to be much more aware of in the decades since On Photography is the world of the rich. She has come to doubt her youthful contention that repeated exposure to images of suffering necessarily shrivels sympathy, and she doubts even more the radical yet influential spin that others put on this critique-that reality itself has become a spectacle. "To speak of reality becoming a spectacle... universalizes the viewing habits of a small, educated population living in the rich part of the world...." Sontag reminds us that sincerity can turn a mere spectator into a witness, and that it is the heart rather than fancy rhetoric that can lead the mind to understanding.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
The impact of violent images: Sontag's first full-length work on imagery since her acclaimed On Photography 25 years ago.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
If you experience any kind of discomfort with the constant coverage, then Sontag can offer some guidance.
She concentrates mainly on photographs rather than video, but this enables her to draw comparisons between the present and past conflicts. Her elegant potted history of war photography from the Crimean war to today is in some ways a rebuttal to the notion that the ubiquity of media renders modern war substantially different to historical war. If video footage defines our experience of war, photographs become our memories, and this is no less true now than in the 1860's.
If this sounds dry, then I do the book an injustice. First of all, Sontag is able to maintain page-turning readability without sacrificing scholarship. Second, even the most careful reading won't take more than 3 hours. Third, her arguments are forceful and in some cases passionate.
I found "regarding the pain of others" erudite, persuasive and strangely moving.
Having been one of the more "provincial" spectators she describes in her book, Regarding the Pain of Others appears to provide an excellent source to discover particularly powerful photographs, at least as commended by Ms. Sontag who has been seriously contemplating the "war image" in all its manifestations for at least two decades. It would have been helpful for the book to have included some of the examples she describes. (This is Art History without the art.) There are times, too, when she seems to forget that suffering is not a stranger in the so-called developed, modern world. The haunting images, captured by photographers on 9/11, of men and women jumping to certain death from the upper floors of the World Trade Center to avoid consumption in the inferno that it had become, will forever retain the sad distinction of being among this century's first "representations" of the continuing horror of suffering in war.
Most recent customer reviews
I found this a difficult book to read.The author uses long meandering sentences frequently enough to distract attention;and her thesis is unclear. Read morePublished on May 28 2004 by nigel allison
I don't know why this book isn't at the top of Amazon's Susan Sontag's list of publications. It was very hard to put it down until I got to the end. Read morePublished on May 20 2004
And that's about it. She's a racist with a brilliant mind, and therefore most adept at propoganda. This book, as well as the rest of her work, to some extent and another... Read morePublished on March 22 2004 by Joanne Ravel
In this insightful essay, Sontag springboards from an analysis of "Three Guineas" by Virginia Woolf into a discussion about the effects of photography and televised... Read morePublished on May 21 2003
I couldnï¿½t help but wonder what Susan Sontag would have to say about a friend of mine, and the manner in which he gets his daily news. Read morePublished on April 27 2003 by Arthur J. Boughan