High Times Greats: Interview With Susan Sontag, The Dark Lady Of Pop Philosophy

in Culture

Susan Sontag (1933 – 2004) would have been 87 on January 16. To celebrate, we’re republishing a rare interview with her from the March, 1978 edition of High Times, conducted by Victor Bockris.

Among American intellectuals, Susan Sontag is probably the only Harvard-educated philosopher who digs punk rock. Sontag became famous in the Sixties when her series of brilliant essays on politics, pornography and art, including the notorious “Notes on Camps,” were collected in Against Interpretation—a book that defended the intuitive acceptance of art against the superficial, cerebral apprehension of it, then fashionable among a small hand of extremely powerful, rigid intellectuals who, for example, dismissed such American classics as Naked Lunch, Howl, On the Road, Andy Warhol’s film Chelsea Girls, etc., as trash. With the impact of her concise arguments, Sontag was immediately labeled the Queen of the Aesthetes, the philosophical champion of pop art and rock and roll.

Since then she has written many more essays, a second novel, edited the works of Antonin Artaud (founder of the Theater of Cruelty and an early mescaline user), made two films and undergone radical surgery and two years of chemotherapy for a rare and advanced form of cancer. Thus Susan Sontag continues to live on the edge of life and death, an unusual address for an intellectual essayist but essential for anyone who aspires, as she does, to tell the truth about the present.

Her first book in seven years, On Photography, was greeted this winter with the familiar violent controversy. Most reviewers treated it as an uncompromising attack on photography itself—everything from photojournalism to baby pictures— and a complete desertion of her Sixties art-for-art’s-sake position for the lofty ground of analytical moralism. As Sontag makes clear for the first time in this interview, On Photography is not about photography at …

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Author: High Times / High Times

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