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On Late Style: Music and Literature Against the Grain
Synopses & Reviews
In his fascinating last book, Edward Said looks at a selection of essays, poems, novels, films, and operas to determine what late style may explain about the evolution of the creative life. He discusses how the approaching death of an artist can make its way "with anachronism and anomaly" into his work, as was the case in the late work of Thomas Mann, Richard Strauss, Jean Genet, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, and C. P. Cavafy. Said examines Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, Genet's Le captif amoureux and Les paravents, Mozart's Così fan tutte, Visconti's film of Lampedusa's The Leopard, Euripides' The Bacchae and Iphigenia at Aulis, and Thomas Mann's Death in Venice, among other works.
He points out that one can also find an "unearthly serenity," in last works, for example, in Sophocles, Shakespeare, Rembrandt, Matisse, Bach, and Wagner, which, as Said puts it, "crown a lifetime of aesthetic endeavor." But in On Late Style he concentrates on artistic lateness as "intransigence, difficulty, and unresolved contradiction." He also writes about Theodor Adorno and about Glenn Gould, who chose to stop performing, thereby creating his own form of lateness. Said makes clear that most of the works discussed are rife with deep conflict and an almost impenetrable complexity. In fact, he feels that lateness is often "a form of exile." These works frequently stood in direct contrast to what was popular at the time, but they were forerunners of what was to come in each artist’s particular discipline — works of true genius.
Eloquent and impassioned, brilliantly reasoned and revelatory, On Late Style is Edward Said's own great last work.
"This is the book culture critic Said was completing when he died in 2003. The critical survey had its genesis in a popular course Said taught at Columbia University, 'Late Works/Late Style,' examining 'artists...whose work expresses lateness through the peculiarities of its style.' Writing with insight and meticulous phrasing, Said studies the output of creative talents during their final years. The passing parade of artists, writers and composers includes Beethoven, Mozart, Jean Genet, Glenn Gould, Arnold Schoenberg and Richard Strauss. In one piece, Said details dramatic contrasts between Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's The Leopard and Luchino Visconti's film adaptation of that novel; in another, he compares Thomas Mann's Death in Venice (1911) with Benjamin Britten's 1973 opera of Mann's novella, composed near the end of Britten's career. While 'late works crown a lifetime of aesthetic endeavor,' Said concludes there also is 'artistic lateness not as harmony and resolution, but as intransigence, difficulty, and unresolved contradiction.' As Said examined the effect of impending death on artists, leukemia led him to his own final pages, resulting in this erudite collection." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Edward W. Said was himself an example of 'the virtuoso as intellectual,' as he has referred to Glenn Gould. Strauss, Beethoven, Schoenberg, Mann, Genet, Adorno, Lampedusa, Visconti, and Gramsci are all in this brilliant book — a profound statement of Said's humanity, which I can only find encouraging as I face the inevitable predicament of the late stage of my own life." Kenzaburo Oe
Based on an enormously popular graduate seminar that Edward Said taught in the fall of 1995 at Columbia University,
In his last collection of essays, one of the most highly regarded cultural critics of our time examines works produced by Strauss, Beethoven, Thomas Mann, Samuel Beckett, and other artists at the end of their lives, and explains what the works say about the evolution of these artists.
About the Author
Edward W. Said was the author of more than twenty books; a regular contributor to newspapers in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East; and music critic for The Nation. He was also an accomplished pianist who collaborated with Daniel Barenboim and Yo-Yo Ma. Born in Jerusalem, he lived most of his adult life in New York City. He died in 2003.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Mariam C. Said
Introduction by Michael Wood
ONE Timeliness and Lateness
TWO Return to the the Eighteenth Century
THREE Così fan tutte at the Limits
FOUR On Jean Genet
FIVE A Lingering Old Order
SIX The Virtuoso and the Intellectual
SEVEN Glimpses of Late Style
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