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Paperback Regarding the Pain of Others Book

ISBN: 0312422199

ISBN13: 9780312422196

Regarding the Pain of Others

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Book Overview

Twenty-five years after her classic On Photography , Susan Sontag returns to the subject of visual representations of war and violence in our culture today. How does the spectacle of the sufferings of others (via television or newsprint) affect us? Are viewers inured--or incited--to violence by the depiction of cruelty? In Regarding the Pain of Others , Susan Sontag takes a fresh look at the representation of atrocity--from Goya's The Disasters of...

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

A Book that Everybody Must Read!!!

Susan Sontag only passed away recently. She was more of a philosopher, social activist, literary critic, and essayist than a fictional writer. In this book, she points out British writer Virginia Woolfe's view of war in today's society. War is a crime and an outrage where ever it might be whether it's in the boardroom, Wall Street, Sarajevo, Kabul, Baghdad, etc. War comes in many shapes and forms but what does war really mean to us. Is it about killing human lives or what about the destruction of the human soul in our society, we are transformed by the images displayed on cable television about the two wars going on and the lives lost. We are close to four thousand American soldiers being killing in Iraq. We had no reason to go but we did and now we must clean up the mess. I totally support our troops overseas because they are selfless human beings who would sacrifice their lives for their country. But what about the leaders who sent them there only to return home in coffins or end up at Walter Reed Medical Center for the injured veterans. Are the injured better off than the casualties? Maybe not because they have to live with their images of war and their actions. Sontag's book works because it makes us think about war without thinking so much about it. Where do we stand? Of course, it would be a perfect world without war and peace prevailed but war is a fact of life. Maybe Sontag should have used examples of wartime strategies that are not so gory or gloom with images of death and destruction. She did not live long enough to see Hurricane Katrina's devastation of the Gulf Coast. What about the business world where casualties are not just in coffins but at the unemployment office? This book made me think so that's why I'm writing about this situation. We lose 18,000 Americans every year because they lack health insurance, that's six times the amount of the victims of September 11, 2001. Maybe we don't have to declare war, uninsured Americans are at war with a society who has neglected them or disregarded their needs for whatever reason.

An easy to avoid topic that we should all look at

Susan Sontag seems to be a lightening rod for the political sensitive, rare is the person who has lukewarm feelings about Sontag- people seem to even love her or hate her. Not sure if I am ready to confess my love for her yet but I am defiantly far closer to the love side than the hate side. Regarding the Pain of Others was my first encounter with her. In truth, I only bought it because I happened upon while browsing thought the bookstore and was struck by its great cover design and bought it knowing little more about it than that. Despite my incredibly poor rational for buying the book (judging it by its cover!) I lucked out immensely with this one! There are few topics more important or relevant in these times than war and our (the west's) perception of war. Sontag takes an unblinking look at these topics of pain, suffering and there representations in photography and comes away with remarkable insight to share. While occasionally going into enough detail to make me squirm in my seat it is important to stress that this book is enjoyable- it is written well and although meandering at times it is always easy to follow and organized. Even if you disagree with some of the conclusions that Sontag reaches in this book you will still benefit from the ways that it forces you to crystallize your own views. Above all else thought these topics are so incredibly important that they deserve attention from all of us- if you don't read this book read something else on the topic!

Timely, wise and informed

When Susan Sontag prepared and wrote her newest book REGARDING THE PAIN OF OTHERS, she probably did not know that at the time of its release to the public the world would once again be at war. Sontag remains one of our more inportant American philosphers and commentators and this book addresses the representaton of pain, war, agony, and injustice as captured by painters from Velasquez, Goya, Callot and others to photographers Matthew Brady, Capa, Bourke-White et al. While she sees it as the responsibility for these people to capture the horrors of war in order that 'we' as observors will be informed and thus never allow such things to continue, she also now addresses how important it is for us to not have these images edited from public consumption - a very current feature that we are now seeing (or not seeing) in the TV and newspaper versions of the Iraqi war. Sontag gives evidence that some of the more sensational photographs from the Civil War and the Vietnam War were actually staged; corpses were added or altered or assasinations were set for the photojournalist much as the paintings of the 19th century were modified to gain impact. She shows that the horrors if the Nazi concentration camps were best captured by the untrained camera rather than the images made famous by Bourke-White et al, manipulating the light and position of vantage to play on the message instead of simply reporting it.She stimulates our anger when she reports such incidences during the Gulf War as "American television viewers weren't allowed to see footage acquired by NBC (which the network then declined to run) of what superiority could wreak: the fate of thousands of Iraqi conscripts who, having fled Kuwait City at the end of the war, on February 27, were carpet bombed with explosives, napalm, radioactive DU (depleted uranium)rounds, and cluster bombs as they headed north, in convoys and on foot, on the road to Basra, Iraq - a slaughter notoriously described by one American oficer as a 'turkey shoot'". She shows that atrocities in foreign places are 'more acceptable' to view than cloistered photographic documents of our own history of the abuse of slaves, the poor, AIDS victims here in this country. We can construct Museums for the reminders of the German atrocities of genocide, crematoriums, starvation etc, but we do not have a single Museum to remind us of the American abuse of African American slaves (lynchings, beatings, prisons etc).There are many quotes to highlight; "It is because a war, any war, doesn't seem as if it can be stopped that people become less responsive to the horrors. Compassion is an unstable emotion. It needs to be translated into action, or it withers. The question is what to do with the feelings that have been aroused, the knowledge that has been communicated. If one feels that there is nothing 'we' can do - but who is that 'we'? - and nothing 'they' can do either - and who are 'they'? - then one starts to get bored, cynical, apath

Timely and Powerful

As I watch the constant war show on CNN, am I a spectator experiencing war vicariously as entertainment, and if so, should I not be watching? On the other hand, if I choose not to watch am I hiding from reality and turning my back on the soldiers who after all represent me?If you experience any kind of discomfort with the constant coverage, then Sontag can offer some guidance.She concentrates mainly on photographs rather than video, but this enables her to draw comparisons between the present and past conflicts. Her elegant potted history of war photography from the Crimean war to today is in some ways a rebuttal to the notion that the ubiquity of media renders modern war substantially different to historical war. If video footage defines our experience of war, photographs become our memories, and this is no less true now than in the 1860's.If this sounds dry, then I do the book an injustice. First of all, Sontag is able to maintain page-turning readability without sacrificing scholarship. Second, even the most careful reading won't take more than 3 hours. Third, her arguments are forceful and in some cases passionate.I found "regarding the pain of others" erudite, persuasive and strangely moving.
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