McLemee on Veeser on Said

by Henry Farrell on June 18, 2010


bq. And so, two or three generations of young radical intellectuals have now had the pleasure of discovering that they are ever so much more radical than Edward Said. It must be very pleasant for them, but none of them has yet amounted to a replacement. With H. Aram Veeser’s _Edward Said: The Charisma of Criticism,_ we have a different sort of Oedipal drama on display. The stakes are less political than personal. It is an insightful book, but also a strange one, charged with an ambivalence towards its subject that is perhaps as intense as Said’s toward the works he discussed in _Orientalism_ or _Culture and Imperialism._

{ 1 comment }


david g 06.21.10 at 11:56 pm


As a notorious conservative and positivist, I never had time for Orientalism, identifying it as an ideological tract based on ignorance and prejudice.

But, after my one meeting with Edward Said, at Stanford in 1988, I had to confess that he was a remarkably engaging man, eager to draw one into whatever it was he was talking about. Charismatic, yes. He was one of a very few people I’ve ever met of whom I could say, he was magnetic.

So, without having read the book Henry mentions, I think I have a faint sense of what it might be about.

Said was full of lies and false laments, such as the canard that his ancestral house in Jerusalem was expropriated by Jews, whereas he was raised in Cairo in extremely comfortable circumstances. And so on and so forth. The man was a mythomaniac whiner, but he also had an incredibly acute understanding of literature and, what is not least important, of music. His best writing, to my mind, are his essays on music.

If I had Said before me today, I would ask him why a Christian Arab, as he was, should so hate the Jews.

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