Thursday, November 29, 2007

Peter Gay Interviewed in Boston Globe

Peter Gay is a phenomenal scholar, and his newest book, Modernism: The Lure of Heresy, from Baudelaire to Beckett and Beyond, has been added to my "wish list."

The Boston Globe interviewed him recently -- it's short but entertaining. Here is some of the introduction to the interview:

Gay's new 600-page tome, "Modernism: The Lure of Heresy, from Baudelaire to Beckett and Beyond," is the fifth book to come out of his very active retirement, and his 25th book overall. Though it covers the revolution in creative thinking that flourished between 1890 and 1930, it doesn't attempt to be a comprehensive survey. Nor does it press down and address questions one might expect to vex an intellectual historian: Can the shock of the new persist in this postmodern age? How did an outlook infatuated with liberation come to harbor the totalitarian-minded within its ranks? Instead, the book looks at modernism part by part - prose and poetry, music and dance, architecture and design, drama and the movies - and tells the story of each genre through its most influential figures.

It's a book, then, not for experts, but for general readers looking to reacquaint themselves with a profoundly influential period. And it's done so gracefully, and engagingly, that even as I raced to finish before our interview, I couldn't make myself skim; each sentence demanded that I slow down. When I reached Gay's apartment on New York's Upper West Side on a recent fall evening, I learned that he was as winningly erudite in person as he is on the page. In his sitting room, surrounded by 17th-century Dutch paintings and a wide view of the Hudson River, he held forth with refreshing humility, eager to make sure I understood his references and answering my questions with a scope and breadth impossible to re-create in this short space.

Read the interview.

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