John Wyver writes: I seem to be getting back to weekly postings of links to stuff that has engaged and intrigued me over the past week – and here’s this week’s list. In particular, I have been reading reviews of and responses to Benjamin Moser’s new authorised biography of Susan Sontag, including:
- Sontag: Her Life by Benjamin Moser review – the sage of America’s cultural elite: Lara Feigel for the Guardian is an excellent place to start.
- Sontag: Her Life by Benjamin Moser review – heavyweight study of a critical colossus: Peter Conrad for the Observer.
- A big new biography of Susan Sontag digs to find the person beneath the icon: Nina Siegal for The New York Times (from which the above portrait, taken by Eddie Hausner in 1989, comes).
- Misunderstanding Susan Sontag: Merve Emre for The Atlantic, who describes the book as ‘monumental and stylish’.
- Susan Sontag and the unholy practice of biography: … and perhaps the best of all, Janet Malcolm for The New Yorker:
The dauntingly erudite, strikingly handsome woman who became a star of the New York intelligentsia when barely thirty, after publishing the essay ‘Notes on Camp,’ and who went on to produce book after book of advanced criticism and fiction, is brought low in this biography. She emerges from it as a person more to be pitied than envied.
• Laurence Olivier – the tragic comedian: for Criterion, Pamela Hutchinson is very good on ‘Larry’ on stage and screen.
• Ten years at the BBC: a personal note from my friend Bill Thompson, but with resonances beyond his individual anniversary.
• We got Obama elected! West Wing stars relive the parties, pranks and power games: twenty years on from the debut, an outline oral history of the much-missed series, with interviews by Kate Abbott for the Guardian…
• One summer in America: after which, read Eliot Weinberger in the new issue of London Review of Books; read it and weep.
• A struggle in the house of art: Sam Williams for Tribune on the deeply troubling ‘wave of politicised hirings and firings in the public theatres and art galleries of Germany’.
• From Beyoncé covers to indie shoots – the new generation of black fashion photographers: exceptional Guardian essay by Kemi Alemoru, with gorgeous images.
• Soccer at the edge of the world: a glorious New York Times feature by Rory Smith (with photos and video by Kieran Dodds) about the national soccer tournament in Greenland, which is packed into just six days every year.
• Over the points: a completely delightful essay by Rob Chapman about railways and train-spotting and growing up in the 1960s and memory and more.
• Why can’t we agree on what’s true anymore?: Will Davies contributes an essential Guardian Longread.
• “They should never have given us uniforms if they didn’t want us to be an army”: media in a time of crisis: terrific keynote address about activist scholarship by Amanda Ann Klein given recently at the 2019 Literature/Film Association Conference in Portland.
• Springsteen at seventy: Singer-songwriter Wesley Stace (who uses the stage name John Wesley Harding) for New York Review of Books; this is adapted from his contribution to Long Walk Home: Reflections on Bruce Springsteen, edited by Jonathan D. Cohen and June Skinner Sawyers, published by Rutgers University Press on September 23, which is the Boss’s seventieth birthday:
Whatever effects, whatever little bits of business he employs to bolster this illusion—the illusion that we are all together, in a small place, where we might be spattered with the performer’s sweat, where one might be able to get from one side of the room to the other by sliding—are in the service of a much greater illusion: that rock and roll still matters, that it can take you away from your dull daily cares, that it can transport you. The truth is that, with a little sleight of hand, it can. Springsteen proves it all night, every time he plays.
• ‘Chimes of Freedom’, East Berlin, 1988: looking for an appropriate video to complement the above, I found this from 31 years ago – and a year before the wall came down. I’d not seen it before, and it’s just wonderful: