Seven essays and exchanges, spanning a range of subjects: the challenges and humiliations women face as they age; the relationship between women's liberation and class struggle; beauty; feminism; fascism; and film.
An indispensable new volume ... Her writing on women is crisp and cutting ... It is a delight to watch such an agile mind slicing through the flab of lazy thinking ... Whether Sontag’s defiant uncategorizability strikes you as subtlety or evasiveness depends on your stomach for uncertainty.
What is actually revealed by the book, and especially by the decision to organise it chronologically, is the process by which Sontag approached, assimilated, dominated and expelled disquieting material ... Odd wobbles in her knowledge base remain ... Sontag doesn’t come alive stylistically or intellectually unless she has cultural material with which to think. Her sentences only begin to accumulate their sonorous, unsettling meanings when she’s reading a photograph or applying the techniques of new historicism to a film, not when she’s making vacuous statements about women and beauty ... This is not a very good book about women, but on Sontag herself... it’s as revealing as, well, a face with the makeup scrubbed off.
To read such a statement in isolation is infuriating enough, and not only because you grow increasingly weary of the conviction that the past must always be measured against our own, supposedly morally superior, times ... You read the essays that follow Emre’s, in which Sontag makes some of the most sexist and wrongheaded assertions I’ve read in a long time, and exasperation turns to bewilderment. What’s really going on here? ... Un-sisterliness is everywhere in On Women ... As a piece of writing, it’s second-rate.