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Andrew Daily has commented on (8) products.

On Late Style: Music and Literature Against the Grain (Vintage) by Edward W. Said
On Late Style: Music and Literature Against the Grain (Vintage)

Andrew Daily, May 16, 2009

It is fitting that Edward Said's long-promised meditation on "late work" - works of art produced in the twilight of an artist's career - is itself a "late work," uncompleted before his untimely death in 2003. What we have then is only fragments - appropriately, fragments are what Said is most interested in in this book.

Taking Theordor Adorno's essays on late-period Beethoven as a starting point, Said attempts to theorize some properties of the late work of art: it is discordant; it is fragmented, in that it does not achieve a total, holistic, coherent unity; it is produced primarily for the interest of the artist, with little care for the work's reception; and it is often "late" in that is is ahead of its time.

Said offers as an example the way in which certain moments in Beethoven's 9th Symphony and late sonatas constitute an uncanny glimpse at what Mahler and Schoenberg would explore almost a century later.

Said continues his discussion across a number of artists - including Thomas Mann, Benjamin Britten, Lampedusa, Visconti, Mozart, Richard Strauss and Jean Genet, among others.

It is a fascinating little book, and a break from many of Said's more familiar works in that it lacks any immediate political import. The Palestine/Israel struggle, on which Said wrote extensively, is almost totally absent from this return to aesthetic reflection. It is as if Said returns full-circle to his early critical work in "Beginnings."

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in music, film and literature, particularly in those late works of famous artists, those "catastrophes" as Adorno said, that both recap a life and point forward to future lives. It can be read in an afternoon.

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Under the Sign of Saturn: Essays by Susan Sontag
Under the Sign of Saturn: Essays

Andrew Daily, August 5, 2008

Of Sontag's work, her collection "Against Interpretation" and the long essay "On Photography" are the most popular. For my money, however, "Under the Sign of Saturn" contains her most brilliant work.

From the opening essay - ostensibly about Paul Goodman - in which she extols the virtues of solitude and hard thinking, through a penetrating essay on the fetishism of fascism, on to a superb encomium to Roland Barthes, every essay sparkles with Sontag's characteristic wit and insight.

This volume also contains one of the single best essays (alongside Hannah Arendt's introduction to "Illumination") on the much-celebrated Walter Benjamin.

And, as is the case with all her work, Sontag unfolds difficult ideas in clear and direct prose.
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Q by Luther Blissett

Andrew Daily, August 4, 2008

What a strange beast of a book this is. Part historical novel, part spy thriller, part philosophical rumination, part radical political manifesto, this book portrays the history of the radical reformation as an allegory of our own troubled days. All written by four authors posing as one.

The book opens at Frankenhausen, the climactic battle of the German Peasant's War (1524/5). A charismatic former monk, Thomas Muntzer, led a largely unarmed peasant army against the forces of the Holy Roman Empire, believing God would intervene and bring victory. The result is not hard to predict. We meet the main character (whose name varies) attempting to escape the resulting massacre.

The rest of the book follows the narrator's trail across Europe, from one heretical sect to another, all plotting to overthrow the existing powers and establish a heaven on earth, contra the landlords and the Church. He is haunted and blocked at every turn by Q, a sinister papal agent.

The book is an allegory of the fortunes of radical, particularly radical Italian politics, in the late 20th/early 21st centuries. The novel's closest contemporaries are Umberto Eco and Thomas Pynchon, in that it is a crowded, sprawling, entertaining, hilarious, anarchic, messy joy of a novel, one that pleases at many levels, from straight-ahead thriller on to a novel of ideas.
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Notebook of a Return to the Native Land (Wesleyan Poetry) by Aime Cesaire
Notebook of a Return to the Native Land (Wesleyan Poetry)

Andrew Daily, April 20, 2008

Aimé Césaire died on Thursday, at the age of 94. Discussions are ongoing about transferring his remains to the Pantheon in Paris - France' s highest honor to her poets, statesmen and heroes (others buried there include Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Rousseau, Zola, Jaurès, Schoelcher). This book will remain his lasting testament, a long prose poem, simultaneously enigmatic and topical, that more than any other captured the vicissitudes of being both French and black, of existing at that liminal space between Europe and the America. This poem overflows with imagery, coined words, long lines and unique meters, thunderous ideas: the whole of life, of Martinique, of France, of the great dilemmas of the 20th century are in here. André Breton thought it might be the greatest poem of the 20th century. I have no doubts. A thousand years from now, when our civilization fades to a distant memory, Césaire, alongside Picasso and Schoenberg, will, I believe, be remembered as capturing the true predicament of our 20th century lives.
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G. by John Berger

Andrew Daily, October 13, 2007

John Berger's "G" is one of the stranger novels of the 20th century, and certainly one of the strangest to capture the Booker prize. Putatively a retelling of the Don Juan myth, Berger's account of the eponymous anti-hero's sexual conquests also unwraps the history of the opening decades of the 20th century.

The novel could be considered postmodern in structure and style, but its spirit belongs to both the social novels of the 19th century, and to the Marxian-inspired cultural criticism of Berger's critical works. The book seems to redeem the promise of his oft-quoted line, that "never again will a single story be told as though it were the only one." This approach fractures the narrative, between G's story, long digressions on the history of flight, the Italian working class and Italian nationalism, as well as Berger's own musings on sex, history and death.

The novel can be a hard slog but the payoff is immense. It captures, without the pomposity or pedantry of recent postmodern "total" novels, the whole breadth of the experience of an individual human life.
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