Sontag from the Grave

Just before she died, Sontag wrote an introduction to Halldor Laxness’ novel “Under the Glass.” It’s published in this week’s NY Times Book Review. It is a nice, if somewhat melancholy reminder that we lost one of the most talented critics of a generation when Sontag died. She could never say a little without saying a lot. In this case, the discussion of one novel becomes a reflection on the imagination itself.

“The long prose fiction called the novel, for want of a better name, has yet to shake off the mandate of its own normality as promulgated in the 19th century: to tell a story peopled by characters whose options and destinies are those of ordinary, so-called real life. Narratives that develop from this artificial norm and tell other kinds of stories, or appear not to tell much of a story at all, draw on traditions that are more venerable than those of the 19th century, but still, to this day seem innovative or ultraliterary or bizarre . . . “