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Reflections of a working writer and reader

 

 

The Prison of National Vanity

At the Same Time is a collection of posthumous writings by Susan Sontag. Jeremy Harding at The Nation, finishes his review like this:

It is an act of worship at the shrine of literature and an admission that the kind of writing she most admires may be a dying art, stifled by “our debauched culture,” which “invites us to simplify reality, to despise wisdom.” The picture she paints is extraordinarily bleak. Far from widening our horizons, the spread of information technology has shrunk our “ethical” world to the size of a mouse hole, while the grandeur of “modernity”–which she’d earlier identified as Al Qaeda’s principal target–has been hollowed out by consumerism, voyeurism, “fantasies of eros and violence” and “demagogic appeals to cultural democracy that accompany…the ever-tightening grip of plutocratic capitalism.” If fiction has a duty to “enlarge and complicate,” she can’t see it surviving for much longer. And a world without literature–“criticism of one’s own reality”–is sure to lose what’s left of its moral bearings.

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