John Updike on Edward Said and Late Works

From The New Yorker:

John_updikeLast words, recorded and treasured in the days when the deathbed was in the home, have fallen from fashion, perhaps because most people spend their final hours in the hospital, too drugged to make any sense. And only the night nurse hears them talk. Yet, at least for this  aging reader, works written late in a writer’s life retain a fascination. They exist, as do last words, where life edges Edwardsaidinto death, and perhaps have something uncanny to tell us. In 1995, the critic, teacher, and journalist Edward W. Said, best known for his pro-Palestinian advocacy, taught at Columbia a popular course called “Last Works/Late Style.” Until his untimely death, of leukemia, in 2003, he was working on a collection of essays and lectures relevant to the topic; this assemblage, edited and introduced by Michael Wood with the coöperation of Said’s widow, has now been published by Pantheon under the title “On Late Style: Music and Literature Against the Grain” ($25). Said’s central idea, set forth in the first chapter, comes from the German philosopher Theodor Adorno (1903-69), who wrote extensively, with an agitated profundity, on Beethoven’s late works. Adorno found in the disharmonies and disjunctions of these works a refusal of bourgeois order, an “idea of surviving beyond what is acceptable and normal.”

More here.