Lava Soap

TITLE: THE VOLCANO LOVER

AUTHOR: SUSAN SONTAG

PUBLISHER: FARRAR STRAUS GIROUX; 415 PAGES; $22

THE BOTTOM LINE: A postmodern pot unexpectedly boils over.

Long before the U.S. lost its trade balance, it was lopsided with intellectual goods from Europe. Marx, Freud, Sartre and Levi-Strauss were required cribbing. Books translated from the French and German were best sellers and their authors culture heroes. So were their interpreters. As a critic and novelist, Susan Sontag handled European ideas and forms with brilliance and style. The camera loved her dark good looks, and she became an American knockoff of the Continental intellectual as gravely...

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