Our Reading Group selection for March is Susan Sontag’s collection of essays, Under the Sign of Saturn. The Reading Group will meet Wednesday, March 27th at 7pm in Goldfish Teahouse (117 W 4th St #101 Royal Oak, MI 48067). Books are discounted 15% at Book Beat. All are welcome!
Art which evokes the themes of fascist aesthetic is popular now, and for most people it is probably no more than a variant of camp. Fascism may be merely fashionable, and perhaps fashion with its irrepressible promiscuity of taste will save us. But the judgments of taste themselves seem less innocent. Art that seemed eminently worth defending ten years ago, as a minority or adversary taste, no longer seems defensible today, because the ethical and cultural issues it raises have become serious, even dangerous, in a way they were not then. [from Fascinating Fascism]
Dissimulation, secretiveness appear a necessity to the melancholic. He has complex, often veiled relations with others. These feelings of superiority, of inadequacy, of baffled feeling, of not being able to get what one wants, or even name it properly (or consistently) to oneself–these can be, it is felt they ought to be, masked by friendliness, or the most scrupulous manipulation. [on Walter Benjamin]
He is an example of a willed classic—an author whom the culture attempts to assimilate but who remains profoundly undigestible. One use of literary respectability in our time—and an important part of the complex career of literary modernism—is to make acceptable an outrageous, essentially forbidding author, who becomes a classic on the basis of the many interesting things to be said about the work that scarcely convey (perhaps even conceal) the real nature of the work itself, which may be, among other things, extremely boring or morally monstrous or terribly painful to read. [from Approaching Artaud]
Under the Sign of Saturn is Sontag’s third collection of critical essays written between 1972 and 1980. Released in 1980, all of the essays were originally published in The New York Review of Books except for “Approaching Artaud,” which was originally published in The New Yorker. Subjects include Paul Goodman, Walter Benjamin, Antonin Artaud, Leni Reifenstahl, Roland Barthes, and Elias Canetti.
Susan Sontag was an American writer and filmmaker, professor, literary icon, and political activist. She wrote extensively about photography, culture and media, AIDS and illness, human rights, and communism and leftist ideology. Her often provocative essays and speeches sometimes drew criticism. The New York Review of Books called her “one of the most influential critics of her generation.”