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Last Works: Lessons in Leaving

by Mark Taylor Yale University Press
Pub Date:
Hbk 392 pages
AU$74.99 NZ$78.25
Product Status: In Stock Now
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A powerful consideration of the lessons imparted in the final works of essential writers and philosophers


For many today, retirement and the leisure said to accompany it have become vestiges of a slower, long-lost time. In a world where the sense of identity is tied to work and careers, to stop working often is to become nobody. In this deeply perceptive and personal exploration of last works, Mark C. Taylor poignantly explores the final reflections of writers and thinkers from Kierkegaard to David Foster Wallace. How did they either face or avoid ending and leaving? What do their lessons in ending teach us about living in the time that remains for us?


Some leavings brought relief, even joy, while others brought pain and suffering. Whether the cause was infirmity, impending death, or simply exhaustion and ennui, the ways these influential voices fell silent offer poignant examples of people withdrawing from the world’s stage. Throughout this learned and moving book, Taylor probes how the art of living involves learning to leave gracefully.

“Modern life is a map of realms or worlds, intellectual and cultural as well as geographic that abut without necessarily connecting. The thinkers whom the larger world needs most are those who have ventured farthest from their starting points without sacrificing intellectual rigor. Such a thinker is Mark C. Taylor.” - Jack Miles, author of God: A Biography

“Last Works is a dazzling tapestry of reflection on the final works of writers Mark Taylor has loved through his many transformations. This is Taylor's intellectual autobiography, his relentless and moving quest to understand religion in its many engagements with literature.” - Kevin Hart, The University of Virginia


“As Mark Taylor's brilliant meditation on last works moves towards its own end, it folds one writer's life and language into the next to thicken the strange meanings of thought time: knowing that we die.” - Siri Hustvedt, author of The Blazing World

“Few thinkers have explored the interplay of death and life as personally and with as much depth and creativity as Mark C. Taylor. In Last Works, he turns to the final writings of his intellectual ghosts for 'lessons in leaving' that speak to everyone.” - Paul Lieberman, author of Gangster Squad

"Mark C. Taylor’s brilliant and nuanced approach to these truly great writers reflects his original path to thinking, which is philosophy as it should be conducted today. Insights from this profound meditation on the human condition fill every page in this magnificent volume." - Esa Saarinen, Aalto University, Finland


Mark C. Taylor is professor of religion at Columbia University and a frequent contributor to the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and NPR. His previous books include Speed Limits and Recovering Place. He lives in Williamstown, MA.