MixedThe New YorkerIf the journals authenticate Moser’s dire portrait, his interviews with friends, lovers, family members, and employees deepen its livid hue ... unsparing ... By Moser’s lights, every writer who has been heavily edited can no longer claim to be the author of his work ... Moser’s biography, for all its pity and antipathy, conveys the extra-largeness of Sontag’s life ... Moser’s anecdotes of the unpleasantness that she allowed herself as she grew older ring true, but recede in significance when viewed against the vast canvas of her lived experience. They are specks on it. The erudition for which she is known was part of a passion for culture that emerged, like a seedling in a crevice in a rock, during her emotionally and intellectually deprived childhood. How the seedling became the majestic flowering plant of Sontag’s maturity is an inspiring story—though perhaps also a chastening one. How many of us, who did not start out with Sontag’s disadvantages, have taken the opportunity that she pounced on to engage with the world’s best art and thought?
PanThe New York Review of BooksIf anything is our own business, it is our pathetic native self. Biographers, in their pride, think otherwise. Readers, in their curiosity, encourage them in their impertinence. Surely Hughes’s family, if not his shade, deserve better than Bate’s squalid findings about Hughes’s sex life and priggish theories about his psychology.