CDN$ 24.95
FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25.
Only 3 left in stock (more on the way).
Ships from and sold by Gift-wrap available.
Notes on Sontag has been added to your Cart
Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 2 images

Notes on Sontag Hardcover – Mar 29 2009

See all 3 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price
New from Used from
Kindle Edition
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
CDN$ 24.95
CDN$ 13.55 CDN$ 13.48

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
click to open popover

Special Offers and Product Promotions

  • You'll save an extra 5% on Books purchased from, now through July 29th. No code necessary, discount applied at checkout. Here's how (restrictions apply)

No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (March 29 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691135703
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691135700
  • Product Dimensions: 12 x 2.1 x 19.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,021,947 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  •  Would you like to update product info, give feedback on images, or tell us about a lower price?

Product Description


One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2009

"With the thoroughness and clarity of a latter-day Edmund Wilson and an urbanity and wit that are all his own, Phillip Lopate has given us, in the modest guise of these Notes, an extraordinarily rewarding study."--Rachel Hadas, Times Literary Supplement

"Notes on Sontag achieves a remarkable evenhandedness, caressing even as it kicks. The author gives ample credit where it's due, particularly when he champions Sontag's unparalleled aphoristic style and her essays. Throughout, Lopate, a beautiful and sometimes very funny writer, exudes a relaxed self-awareness about his own strengths and weaknesses, admitting, for instance, that he once sought Sontag's approval (she was an acquaintance). In the end, his toughness and self-knowledge actually enhance his praise. He takes Sontag seriously, and even if he finds her ridiculous at times, his persuasive prose makes it clear that he misses her: 'Sontag's best ruminations have a power and cohesion that merit countless revisitation, both to savor their insights and wonder how she did it.'"--Time Out New York

"Lopate has produced an absolute gem of a book. In places personal (he knew Sontag for many years), but more often focused on the work itself--essays, fiction, films, reviews--this book stands as the best appreciation of Sontag in print and is an ideal introduction to this major American thinker."--Choice

"Lopate's book . . . is a deeply personal study of an intellect and a provocative public figure. It is an excellent introduction to Sontag, a brief yet tantalizing piece of work for those inspired by, and those who wish to discover, her."--Anette Carter, Women's News

"A reflection on both Sontag's specific oeuvre and literary life in general, Notes on Sontag. will reward both those who know Sontag's work well and those only beginning to make her acquaintance."--Jennifer Burns, Virginia Quarterly Review

"[T]he book offers a multifaceted, challenging and vivid picture of an elaborate personality--all conveyed through a very personal lens."--Mihaela Culea, European Legacy

"A multi-level monograph that deals with her life and writings together and takes a deep bite out of the cultural issues that Sontag's journals merely make a dent in, such as her ability to make a fictional character out of herself and in fact to build a whole narrative style without recourse to psychology. Lopate is also a clear and careful writer of prose."--George Fetherling, Vancouver Sun

From the Back Cover

"Phillip Lopate is so sensible that we can overlook just how smart and audacious he also is. In Notes on Sontag, he manages a dazzling, melancholy anatomy as Robert Burton would have understood the notion, and his interrogation of Sontag is all the more impressive and resonant because this is a self-interrogation too, shrewd, ardent, skeptical, canny."--Robert Polito, director of the New School Writing Program

"Susan Sontag was an indispensable writer, and she has now been engaged by an equally indispensable writer whose essential charm, irreverence, and gift for the unexpected make him an ideal guide to Sontag's work. Lopate's book is at once intensely personal and rigorous, never less than passionate in its commitment to what is most bracing and individual in Sontag's writing."--Robert Boyers, editor of Salmagundi

"This is just what we need: a book on Susan Sontag by a writer allergic to hype and genuinely fascinated by Sontag's ideas and the implications of her cultural presence. Lopate is exacting in his estimates--able to praise and criticize with equal sureness. He speaks straight, from eye-level, as a literary colleague: he knew Sontag and has heard all the stories. More important, he knows the work and its subjects--the novels, films, and debates--deeply. Notes on Sontag is a portrait of the author; it is also a portrait of an era in American intellectual life."--Sven Birkerts, author of Reading Life: Books for the Ages

"Lopate and Sontag are an inspired pairing. Lopate has just the right distance on Sontag--neither sycophant nor peer--to write trenchantly and sympathetically about her achievements, but he's also unsparing about her occasional idiocies. Some of the best things in the book are the personal vignettes about close encounters with Sontag, where Lopate stands in for the reader and fan, often getting burned in the process."--Christopher Benfey, Mount Holyoke College

See all Product Description

Customer Reviews

There are no customer reviews yet on
5 star
4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star

Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x99aade94) out of 5 stars 6 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x99aeaa98) out of 5 stars The Art of Balance April 12 2009
By bettina podler - Published on
Format: Hardcover
There's great imaginative sympathy in this assessment of Sontag and her work, and no knife in the ribs. It's utterly unlike those remembrances of literary celebrities by contemporaries who establish their authority by boasting of intimacy with the subject and then use these occasions to tell secrets and destroy reputations.
Judicious though the book is, Lopate's tone is anything but solemn. Instead, he registers his interest, approval, exasperation, amusement, disapproval, envy of Sontag, conflicted longing for friendship with her, etc., as he goes along. He writes here both as critic and as personal essayist and what he creates is a kind of double portrait. By acknowledging and examining his reactions, he frees himself from their control; that makes his stance toward his subject particularly supple, and his insights multi-angled.
Through his career as a personal essayist, Lopate has valued balance. He has demonstrated the art of balance in his own personal essays and students and admirers have taken note. It hasn't been a cautious, middle-of-the-road kind of exercise, but a real struggle, at times a painful one, requiring the disclosure of much that is unbecoming. Over and over he has achieved it (would that Sontag had!). Here he has done it again, and with this little book, has -- I believe -- truly established himself as a literary senior statesman.
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x99aeaaec) out of 5 stars Lopates take on Sontag June 7 2010
By Randall L. Wilson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Philip Lopate is a wonderful essayist with an always engaging personal style. He does a credible job at reviewing Sontag's work and personality as he experienced it and her. He also comes clean on his need for her approval and having to live with the fact that he never got it.

But I think he dances around the elephant in the room which is Sontag's self-mythology that spawned a cultural equivalent about her. While much of her writing is laudable, incisive and even brillant, it will be her iconic status as both the high priestess of intellectual seriousness and that of the sexy, man-eating intellectual that will forever cast a shadow over often her impressive work.

Maybe Lopate was too close to both aspects - the intellectual elite where Sontag really matters and his own personal even if tenuous relationship with the diva.

For all her brilliance, Sontag is said to have been a petty, insecure, often cold and insensitive snob who was unable to transform her acute intelligence into productive self awareness and dare I say, grace as she aged.

That is what made her iconic, the towering intellectual who was clueless about human beings. I believe that her soaring gracelessness is the stuff of New York intelligentsia legend. Lopate hints at this reputation and gives us just a taste of it in the book. Rather than tip-toe around the Sontagian personality, that toxic mixture of myth making, extreme vulnerability, massive ego, and extreme vitality, he should have confronted it directly along with her writing. For the truth is that Sontag will forever remain a legendary personality that will be remember long after anyone remembers the title of a single one of her books.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Steiner - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Phillip Lopate is an essayist writing a warm essay about a great essayist, the late Susan Sontag. This little book is an incisive account of Sontag's accomplished aesthetic and cultural writings; it traces her career from the stylish and radical defender of camp to the solemn moralist of Regarding the Pain of Others. Lopate strives for balance in his account, he constantly weighs her achievements against her failings as a novelist in such a way as to present a reasonably fair assessment. There are naturally many moments of Lopate's own insecurity in this text-too many anecdotes regarding Sontag's failure to see his talent. But still, this is a rich and valuable text.
HASH(0x99aeb300) out of 5 stars Very smart and very accessible too Feb. 14 2015
By Debra Monroe - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book surely isn't for everyone, but it's a whole lot more than a study of Sontag. It helped me to better understand the aesthetic climate that initially made her such a celebrity, and it increased my understanding of the Frankfurt School of literary theorists. And all in Lopate's trademark brainy but amused style.
By Zöe - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
He gives some rare seen details about Sontag, it feels like a combination of memoir and a long essay. ^^