One of the many fascinating dimensions of Sontag is its scrupulous attention to Sontag’s futile struggle to reconcile mind and body. Even at 700 pages, the book is utterly riveting and consistently insightful, in no small part because of its faithful attention to nuance ... The great ambition of Moser’s book is its willingness to organize itself around guiding ideas rather than simply the chronology of events. Or rather, all of these events illuminate the structuring tensions of Sontag’s life ... Moser continually peels away the mythology of Sontag—as a single-name icon—to reveal the beating heart of a mortal woman underneath. The book takes this larger-than-life intellectual powerhouse and makes her life-size again ... If the project of literary biography involves staging a conversation between the intellectual and personal plotlines of a life, one of the most moving illuminations of Moser’s book is that Sontag’s intellectual plotline—the evolution of her ideas—offers more traditionally recognizable progression and resolution than the narrative arc of her personal life ... He honors the ways in which her life was never just one thing at once ... Many of the most exciting moments in his biography are the ones in which Moser brings himself to argue with Sontag directly ... By framing Sontag’s intellectual project within the landscape of her personal experience—bringing her cancer and her queerness and her fragility back into the picture—Moser honors Sontag’s intellectual legacy not just by arguing with her claims but by arguing with her mode—by wondering what additional layers of meaning her work might hold when it’s brought back into conversation with her personal experience.
[A] fascinating biography ... This all could as easily have been presented by Moser as a reason to shame Sontag, but in his hands it becomes a story about the shame and what she was trying to hide ... He sees in what she sought to hide the emotional truth of fiction — about her sexuality and also Mann’s. This complex sense of Sontag as a writer, made from who she was to herself and others, over time, strikes me as Moser’s real subject and the project of the larger book ... The resulting details are stunning in number and quality ... Moser’s Sontag is someone he works to understand as both a girl forever in love with her beautiful, alcoholic, widow mother and a woman who regularly castigated herself for not already being who she wanted to be, as if her ambition made a liar of her ... something of an intellectual and political history of the 20th century United States. And it is animated by some of its most historically significant gossip ... The book’s cover copy calls it 'a Great American novel in the form of a biography,' and if so, it is one Sontag never dared to write, ironically visible only in this story of her life.
... a book as handsome, provocative and troubled as its subject ... Moser...is triggered. His book has an interesting, jumpy, adversarial energy, with its author caught up in the drama and not so subtly taking sides in the clashes surrounding Sontag ... We encounter Sontag as a series of masks, motifs, symptoms and symbols, with her biographer presenting a set of master keys that might explain her behavior ... Where Moser shines is not in analysis but in narrative, no easy feat for a life committed to reinvention ... Moser offers an elegant, sensitive summation of the decades that followed [her] ugly divorce ... It’s a pity that Moser is only dutiful about the work, given that in a sense, the work was her real life, the place where she found the eros, the excitement and fulfillment she long sought; it is perhaps why he gives such centrality to her myth instead.