Thursday at 7PM at the KGBBar, H. Aram Veeser, an old student of Ed Said’s, will give a talk titled “The Influence of Edward Said”. Veeser is apparently interested in writing a bio of Said interlaced with incidents from his own life. Here’s an example of what that bio would look like: a charming essay, in which Veeser takes snapshots of Said’s “paradox of identity” alongside Veeser’s own:
But the Columbia campus of 1968 was no place for Cato the Elder, and when I met him there he was still an Englishman. It took the Reagan years fully to bring out the Jeremiah in him. The phrase “Tory anarchy” appealed to him, and for good reason: he embodied a style of high conservatism prey to fits of wild improvisation. He was beyond ambivalent; he was at war. Three events will convey the idea pretty clearly. First, my introduction to him went like this.
“Yes, what is it?” Smile.”You see I’m on my way out.”
“Hi. My name is Harold Veeser and, uh, I, you are, I guess, my advisor.”
“Then you must have some little card for me to sign. Ah, yes, there it is, just give it over here. Oh, look [now delighted] your middle name is Aram. Why don’t you use it? Do you speak Armenian?” At this juncture Said put his arm around my shoulders. I was stunned.
“Well, no, a couple of words.”
“That was a piece of negligence, Aram. Why didn’t you learn it?”
“Well, my father, he’s German, so, I guess, they didn’t—you know, there wasn’t a lot of Armenian spoken.” I noticed that his chummy grasp was moving me toward the door.
“A way can always be found, my dear boy. You haven’t progressed very far with this card, have you. Your courses, you see, need to be written in here.”
“I wanted to ask you about courses, uh, because—well, I am an English major.”
“Of course. But, look, it can’t be today, I’m late for an appointment. This is just not the time. Why don’t you come round later this week.”
“Well, but I have to register now . . . .”
“Look, uh, Harold, I would love to discuss all this with you, and I will when you come in for a longer chat.” Big smile. I realize that his warm embrace has been steering me to the door. He opens it. “You sign up for Professor M******* R********’s course. The Bloomsbury Circle. He’s fantastic, a brilliant intellect. Look, I’ll sign the form.” He flourished a gold pen the size of a frankfurter and autographed my program card. “And it was really an immense pleasure to meet you. You must come in and see me. Good-bye.”
I found myself standing in the hall, having just experienced for the first time the odd pattern of embrace-plus-expulsion that distinguished so many of Said’s involvements. With literary theory, with the PLO, in fact everywhere except for his personal relationships which never wavered, there is the gift for extraordinary intimacy and the power of bitter, dismissive rejection—simultaneously. The meltingly warm embrace lay over a cold and steady gaze, like two transparencies on an overhead projector.
It gets better; go read the whole thing, you’ll love it.
I am so all about biographies right now. I hope he really does write it.
[Via L. Cerand over at Maud]