New Essay: “The Struggle to Feel”

I’ve a long piece in the Los Angeles Review of Books. It’s about Benjamin Moser’s Susan Sontag: Her Life and Work. My piece has more of the review and less of the essay than I like in my essay-reviews, but my plan to explore Sontag’s themes while discussing a new account of her life was hijacked by certain features of the biography to which I felt compelled to respond.

How it begins:

“I DON’T KNOW what my real feelings are,” wrote Susan Sontag in one of her journals, “so I look to other people (the other person) to tell me.” This confession might seem surprising, coming as it does from one of the most famous critics of the 20th century. Sontag embodies the ideal — as Benjamin Moser puts it — of “the woman who went to every opening and saw every opera and read every book.” Why did she spend her life thinking and writing about cultural artifacts, if she wasn’t even sure how she felt about them?

Read the whole thing here.