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Johnny the Renaissance Loser >

[Comments] (5) Famous Last Wor...: I've heard about the "last, unfinished work" of various writers and composers. The piece they were working on when they died. But I've got a monotonically increasing number of "pieces" I'm working on, and I don't see that ever changing. When I die I'm going to leave behind dozens or hundreds of unfinished works. I just now noticed this discrepancy, which seems like a moderately huge one. Is this what actually happened for Bach, Schubert, et al.? Is the idea of the one unfinished work just a romanticization and simplification? Or am I just really disorganized and undisciplined?


Posted by Brian Danger Hicks at Mon Sep 05 2005 12:40

Shouldn't the title of this post be Famous Unfinished Last Words?

Posted by Leonard at Mon Sep 05 2005 12:44

Or, even better...

Posted by Rachel at Mon Sep 05 2005 15:36

Maybe the only people who get famous enough for people to care about their last work are the ones who are disciplined enough to focus on one thing at a time? Just a thought (a worrying one...)

Posted by Brendan at Tue Sep 06 2005 11:16

I'd say you're just of the Tupac Shakur school. People will be publishing new collections of your (more or less finished) work long after you're dead, and saying it's better than the stuff produced by living humans.

Posted by pedro at Wed Sep 07 2005 10:21

Yeah, I'm sure that they probably left a bunch of unfinished work, but it's just that a symphony is a pretty big deal. If you died in the middle of writing "Python for Supergeniuses," your magnum opus which was to dwarf all future books (written after your Python for the Masses became a best seller), that's probably the one that people would talk most about. (I would talk most about robotfindskitten 2 (this time it's personal)) Schubert was also famous in his own right and had written other Symphonies -- you don't hear about Harold Staplerpuncher's great Unfinished First Symphony (although I suspect there are more "unfinished first symphonies" in the world than there have been finished ones) because Harold never made a name for himself and so nobody cares about his symphony... although it could be amazing. Similarly, no one (but a huge Schubert nerd) cares about "Schubert's Unfinished Melodramatic Art Songs, Volume One" but you can probably be sure that there was enough material for one.

The longstanding legend surrounding Bach's death is that after he died, his music was so disrespected as to have been used as fish wrap in the marketplace. We can't do that with your code or recipe cards, but then again, it sounds like that Bach story is apocryphal anyway.

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