New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, (1963). Octavo, original black cloth lettered in green and white over black paper boards, green endpapers, top edge stained black, original unclipped pictorial dust jacket lettered in blue and green. Ink presentation inscription from Sontag to Dwight MacDonald on verso of front free endpaper. Light soiling and edgewear to jacket, spine toned, small spot to front free endpaper.
First edition of Susan Sontag’s first novel, published the year before she achieved widespread literary fame. In this absurdist anti-novel, an ironic commentary on her own education, an idle and privileged Parisian uses the events of his waking life to interpret his dreams: “The bridge which I built between my dream and my daytime occupations was my first taste of an inner life.” Sontag has inscribed this copy to prominent political radical and social critic Dwight MacDonald: “for Dwight MacDonald -- / The Benefactor, which originally / I intended to dedicate to Buster / Keaton -- / with warmest regards - / Susan Sontag.” The Partisan Review had recently published MacDonald’s most famous essay, “Masscult and Midcult,” a fervent attack on middlebrow culture in the United States. One year after The Benefactor appeared, The Partisan Review would publish Sontag’s own breakout essay, “Notes on ‘Camp,’” a celebration of camp as an aesthetic sensibility distinct from traditional categories of high and low, and an implicit challenge to MacDonald's hierarchy. Sontag dedicated The Benefactor to avant-garde Cuban playwright María Irene Fornés, her partner in New York during the 1960s; references to Buster Keaton would later appear in her critical essays. A near-fine copy, with excellent New York Intellectual provenance.