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Where the Stress Falls



Susan Sontag has said that her earliest idea of what a writer should be was "someone who is interested in everything." Thirty-five years after her first collection of essays, the now classic Against Interpretation, our most important essayist has chosen more than forty longer and shorter pieces from the last two decades that illustrate a deeply felt, kaleidoscopic array of interests, passions, observations, and ideas.

"Reading" offers ardent, freewheeling considerations of talismanic writers from her own private canon, such as Marina Tsvetaeva, Randall Jarrell, Roland Barthes, Machado de Assis, W. G. Sebald, Borges, and Elizabeth Hardwick. "Seeing" is a series of luminous and incisive encounters with film, dance, photography, painting, opera, and theatre. And in the final section, "There and Here," Sontag explores some of her own commitments: to the work (and activism) of conscience, to the concreteness of historical understanding, and to the vocation of the writer.

Where the Stress Falls records a great American writer's urgent engagement with some of the most significant aesthetic and moral issues of the late twentieth century, and provides a brilliant and clear-eyed appraisal of what is at stake, in this new century, in the survival of that inheritance.

“What ultimately matters about Sontag is what she has defended: the life of the mind, and the necessity for reading and writing as ‘a way of being fully human.’ She has been a great explainer, but her explanations are not reductive....She regroups the familiar and makes the eye fresh....She stands for what is articulate, independent, exploratory: for self as work in progress.” —Hilary Mantel, Los Angeles Times Book Review

“[The essays] invariably also leave one with the urgent desire to read the book or see the painting, play, dance she describes. Her passion evokes that urgency...The outstanding essays are ‘Waiting for Godot in Sarajevo’ and ‘Writing Itself: On Roland Barthes,’ both of which are definitive and awe-inspiring.” —Bookforum

“Three essays—the longest in the book—are of unquestioned lasting importance. They are ‘Writing Itself: On Roland Barthes,’ ‘Waiting for Godot in Sarajevo’ and the title essay [‘Where the Stress Falls’ which] is a stunning tour de force.” —Houston Chronicle

Where the Stress Falls raises the bar of criticism to the highest level....Her energy infuses every word in the collection.” —The Seattle Times

“Her criticism is art in its own right, so gorgeously formed and creative, so vital and searching, deeply rooted in passionately intelligent reading and unstinting curiosity ....A substantial and wonderfully musical collection that makes matters literary and artistic urgent and thrilling.” —Booklist


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