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In America [PDF / EPUB] In America In 1876 a group of Poles led by Maryna Zalewska Poland's greatest actress travel to California to found a utopian commune Maryna who has renounced her career is accompanied by her small son and husban In a group of Poles led by Maryna Zalewska Poland's greatest actress travel to California to found a utopian commune Maryna who has renounced her career is accompanied by her small son and husband; in her entourage is a rising young writer who is in love with her The novel portrays a West that is still largely empty where white settlers confront native Californians and Asian coolies The image of America and of California as fantasy as escape as radical simplification constantly meets a complex reality The commune fails and most of the migrants go home but Maryna stays and triumphs on the American stage In America is a big juicy surprising book about a woman's search for self transformation about the fate of idealism about the world of the theater that will captivate its readers from the first page It is Sontag's most delicious most brilliant achievement.

  • Paperback
  • 398 pages
  • In America
  • Susan Sontag
  • English
  • 06 September 2016
  • 9780312273200

About the Author: Susan Sontag

Susan Sontag was born in New York City on January grew up in Tucson Arizona and attended high school in Los Angeles She received her BA from the College of the University of Chicago and did graduate work in philosophy literature and theology at Harvard University and Saint Anne’s College OxfordHer books include four novels The Benefactor Death Kit The Volcano Lover and In Am.



10 thoughts on “In America

  1. says:

    I had never read Susan Sontag before but ‘In America’ is historical fiction with the heavy emphasis on fiction done right The drama in this book was underplayed so it’s not an “entertaining” read in the conventional sense There are probably three uniue points that I took from reading this book First Sontag focuses on a Polish stage princess Helena Modjeska known as Maryna in the book who is of serious renown and wealth and who immigrates to California with her gang of industrious Bohemians to start a new life off the land So she chooses someone to fictionalize who already has a rich story but is unknown to the vast majority of us Secondly her writing style is so enlightening I learned a great deal about living in late 19th century California It is evident that she did a great deal of local researchThe last point which is probably obvious to those who have read the author’s other works is that Sontag’s writing showcases a very strong voice but is not overwrought The central character Maryna exhibits a great deal of strength and influence in an otherwise male dominated 19th century world The scenes around the romances and affairs are beautifully done Five stars This book is both subtle and muted in its emotional content so it might not be everyone’s cup of tea It won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2000

  2. says:

    Let me be perfectly clear——I am a huge fan of Susan Sontag's criticism Against Interpretation and Other Essays On Photography and Regarding the Pain of Others are books I go back to repeatedly for their ahead of their time provocative points of view After finishing In America I feel it's the critical side of Sontag that makes her fiction suffer The writing is accomplished and refined and formally the constantly shifting points of view rendered through various writing forms such as correspondence letters and real time theatrical performance proves to be a clever device to push the story alongBut how has this tireless champion of the avant garde produced a novel that feels so old and musty as if it was from the 19th century but without the strong emotional and moral conflict that informed the best literature of the time by such authors as Tolstoy Dostoevsky James Balzac etc? Chapter Zero with its unnamed mysterious observernarrator that sneaks into a dinner party showed promise and piued my curiosity but then the novel devolved by having the main characters——who are rather staid clichéd and uninteresting——take over the storytelling reins Maybe Sontag intended this to be of a commentary on the social class issues and bohemian hypocrisies of the time but I just had no emotional connection to any of these people The book is well constructed but has no soul——not surprising I think when its written by one of our most celebrated academic thinkersI also can't help but think that this novel constructed around supposed historical fact is some sort of sublimated biographical exploration for Sontag Every character embodies some facet of her life and personality Maryna the star artiste who flees her first marriage for fame and fortune on the stage; Ryzard the aspiring writer; Bogdan the dutiful husband wresting with his homosexual tendencies and secret affairs; even the portrait photographer that comes to their Anaheim commune to shoot the group conjures a very Sontag like discussion of the photographic medium not to mention could be tagged as Annie Leibovitz like But what could have been an interesting exploration of the emotions that drive these characters and hence Sontag is too remote as if the scholarcritic side of Sontag cautioned her fiction writing doppelganger not to reveal too much So while I appreciate the craft of this novel immensely I am disappointed that it leaves me so unaffected in the end

  3. says:

    I want to re read this novel It’s gorgeous

  4. says:

    Like Walking in MudI have always wanted to read this book so when I saw it at a school fair I was happy to buy it On the cover it says it won the National Book Award of 2000 and awards mean a good read The plot is great a famous Polish actress decides to emigrate to America with her family and friends and start a community in southern California The story follows their decision to move to America and the eventual failure of their community and the reinvention of self a homage to the American dream where you can be anything in AmericaI wanted to like this book its full of great detail moments of brilliance but I couldn't I hated the writing style It was like walking across mudflats at low tide you sink to your thighs in the mud and each footstep is an effort but you press on thinking all the time how great it will feel to get to the other side and surely it will get easier at some point When you finally get to the other side you are covered in mud and too exhausted to be excited about having conuered the mud flats You just look back thinking why did I botherwwwmeredithbrocklebankcom

  5. says:

    A novel about the nineteeth century commune of the great Polish actress Helena Modjeska in the era of Bernhardt It was located near Anaheim California What an outrageous boatload of bohemians The commune predated the progressive era's burgeoning of California cults and communes by thirty years Susan Sontag only wrote two novels both of them historical and her sense of character her ability to bring to life such a wacky crew of intelligentsia utopians is to be treasured That Sontag was a Los Angeles native is a fact that often overlooked but it comes out in her love of this early bohemia A terrific novel deserving of a new readership

  6. says:

    Forget the old boys club The most engaging historical fiction is being written by women What's worse they have the audacity to make it funIn Ahab's Wife Sena Jeter Naslund dared to revise Melville's classic Moby Dick Anita Shreve re created a tense custody battle at the turn of the 20th century in Fortune's Rocks And Tracy Chevalier painted a stirring portrait of a maid in Johannes Vermeer's houseThese recent books share the same strengths All of them are carefully researched lavishly detailed and expertly plotted But they also share the same weakness Despite their historical accuracy they can't resist the temptation to project modern sensibilities backward onto their feminist heroines Ironically the result is to render 200 years of feminist activism essentially irrelevant Who needs eual access to education? Chevalier's maid helps Vermeer improve his compositions Euality before the law? Please Shreve's young mother gets what's hers despite the legal bias against her Una Nasland's pre Civil War berwoman could edit Ms MagazineSontag doesn't make this mistake in her rich new novel inspired by the life of Polish actress Helena Modrzejewska When Sontag's Maryna reacts against the constraints of her time she does so in ways that seem historically accurate This is no NOW posterwoman; Maryna is a character riddled with contradictions carving out the kind of power available to her making the necessary compromises and hating them at the same timeThe novel opens with a daring almost mystical chapter in which Sontag imagines herself conceiving of her characters at a lavish dinner in Russian occupied Poland in 1875 It's like watching a projectionist trying to bring the film into focus This kind of self referential post modern trick could be annoying but Sontag is a brilliant writer who doesn't gauge her intelligence by how confused she can make her audienceAs the sun of her circle of admirers Maryna is at the zenith of her power in Polish theater but she yearns for a kind of simple authenticity She had loved being an actress because the theater seemed to her nothing less than the truth Sontag writes Acting in a play one of the great plays you became better than you really werePerhaps it's not surprising then that Maryna is drawn to an even elaborate stage of self improvement She convinces her husband and their friends to take a luxurious trip half way around the world to begin a utopian community in CaliforniaOf course Maryna is doomed to discover that simplicity is a complex uality to acuire Communal living works fine unless people are involved The faux community they buy in Anaheim promises the purifying simplicities of rustic life as lived by the privileged but the laws of economics play havoc with their vineyard's successClinging to the people she pushes away Maryna and her friends can't escape the multiple ironies of their situation A ueen who has abdicated will always be a ueen to those who knew her on the throne Sontag notes Her devoted husband is tormented by his desire for others Ryszard a brilliant writer is so desperately in love with her that he can't compose anything worthwhile Their friends Julian and Wanda find their marriage growing hateful in this bucolic paradise Doesn't it seem very American Ryszard sighs that America has its America its better destination where everyone dreams of going?When the community falters as they all suspected it would Maryna hopes to reincarnate her former theatrical glory But she discovers painfully that the costs and rewards of being a great European actress are not the same as being an American celebrity The result is a fascinating exploration of what's real in a culture that preaches authenticity but worships artificialitySontag is so comfortable spinning these big ideas through the details of her novel that they never seem heavy or intrusive In America we discover the country as the curtain rises on the modern age After so many moving stories from Irish immigrants the perspective of aristocratic Poles is unusual but the plot they encounter belongs to us allhttpwwwcsmonitorcom20000309p1

  7. says:

    If you're Susan Sontag this probably counts as an adventure novel We follow famous Polish actress Maryna Zalenska through the 1870s in AmericaOmniscient point of view is all over the place Maryna her husband son inept maid and a group of close friends buy a farm in Annaheim California and try to live well and simply there No one finds happiness and the work is too hard so she tries out for a part in a local theater and becomes famous all over again here in AmericaShe tours constantly and her fame grows Eventually she and her supporting players and assistants are given their own train car to live and sleep in as they go between cities and venuesThe story could be simple and dull But it is given lots of texture as the author brings us readers to crash a party at the beginning and then she borrows some private journals of some of the characters and at the end we see a drunken solilouy delivered by none other than Edwin Booth yes the surviving actor brother of the notorious Booth who killed LincolnThe events are fictionalized History doesn't support any of the happenings and the central actress doesn't really exist But she does seem believableHowever the most prominent character is the author herself Susan Sontag She was a famous essayist in the 1960s She wrote the article Notes on Camp which defined a cultural entertainment phenomenon She took a you'll know it when you see it concept and made it so complicated in theory and definition that to this day I still have no idea what to say about CampAnd for some reason when I checked out this book I had the misconception that she did some time as a humor writer but most likely I was misinformed I THINK I remember reading a very funny essay by a woman who spent a day with her friend and her friend's children But maybe the author was Susan Orlean? Erica Jong? Dorothy Parker? I just don't knowThe author who was probably not Susan Sontag made a note to her readers something in the mood of I have no idea why children's hands are ALWAYS sticky I assume it's because they don't smoke enoughDoes anyone know who DID write that?

  8. says:

    This is neither a plot driven nor a character driven novel Despite the decades that the story spans little seems to happen or what does happen never conveys any real plot tension The characters never change or develop beyond the incremental alterations of age and experience I suppose I would have to describe this as a novel of ideas a chance for the highly regarded essayist to discuss her thoughts on the nature of theatrical performance the essential differences between the European and American identity attitudes toward marriage family success and with a different audience or through an alternative venue Based on the life of an actual 19th century Polish actress this story follows a young theatrical star who emigrates from Poland to California to set up a utopian commune with her intellectual friends When the commune fails after a year she returns to her career and achieves eual acclaim on this side of the Atlantic Maybe I am just not smart enough to appreciate this award winning novel but I found it tedious self important and uite underwhelming

  9. says:

    I came for the reputation stayed for the form and history stayed til the end for the attention to detail and plot character development and was glad to leave when the experiment had run its courseI am charmed by the peculiar metafiction in this book but I think it works against itself Chapter Zero conjures a fictional dinner party that the invisible narrator haunts observing Polish intellectuals who are based on real historical figures The titular character Maryna Zalezowska derives from the 19th century Shakespearean diva Helena Modrzejewska The narrator sets out to learn whether theirs would be a story that would speak to me and thus to the reader Fine I love fiction about a historical problem However I made the mistake of reading Sontag's thoughts on the book beforehand I made her into a marvelous person The real Modjeska Modrzejewska's stage name was a horrible racist found here I couldn't escape that contradiction if you're scrubbing these characters of their flaws how can you expect their story to speak to you?Also her approach to citing sources is lacking The foreword pays homage to a few works but she does not mention her practice of lifting phrases descriptions and a couple whole passages from other works and articles Sontag described this act as scholarly in joking and she distinguished between writers and sources bullshit Regardless of her reasons if she benefited from others' works why not include a bibliography so others can too?

  10. says:

    Well that was a whole lot of words About 400 pages where pretty much nothing of interest happened internally or externally to any of the characters Was this a story about a marriage? Not really Story about an immigrant family? No not uite Story about America in 1876? No not exactly It just seemed like a ramble The first chapter is Sontag imagining herself being a fly on the wall at a party given by this familyfriend group They are based on real people though she changes their names presumably creates most of their actions But I can't figure out why she bothered Lots of words about the differences in theatre in PolandEurope its ART and America its celebrity and But we sure didn't need 400 pages to make that point Marena the actress and main character is likable enough but exceedingly dull Perhaps it would have been interesting if her transfer to the US stage was not so successful and uick Sontag is usually making some sort of political point and she starts down a whole lot of paths but I could see no conclusion to any of them

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