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books

THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR

ELEVEN SCHOLARS, CRITICS, AND ARTISTS CHOOSE THE YEAR’S OUTSTANDING TITLES.

JOHN BALDESSARI

Kierkegaard once said that his goal in writing was to make life difficult for people. I read Edward Said’s On Late Style (Pantheon) because its title suggested that it might offer insights into my life’s pursuit of trying to understand art. The subtitle of the book is Music and Literature Against the Grain. The photo of Said on the back cover shows his shirt collar slightly askew, which I chose to understand as an unintended message.

There are no artists (in the narrow sense) discussed, but the book contains valuable insights for them—perhaps what they know intuitively but need to have reaffirmed. Said was a fan of Adorno, and “late style” is Adorno’s term. Late, however, doesn’t mean maturity, as in a ripe pear. It’s more a question of Why should I care about harmony and good taste? It is late

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