Friday, January 16, 2009

Insults and joys of old age...

Dwight Garner offers a review of a recent book, "Somewhere towards the end," by former prominent London book editor, 91 year old Diana Athill. ( I regret that I - like many of you, I suspect - read more book reviews than actual books.) Here are some clips that I thought interesting:
A positive aspect of the waning of sex, Ms. Athill says, “was that other things became more interesting.” ... I was surprised that this longtime fiction editor has declared that she has “gone off novels.”...Why? She no longer feels the need to parse the intricacies of human relationships and love affairs, “but I do still want to be fed facts, to be given material which extends the region in which my mind can wander.” ...The elderly, she writes, can find great enjoyment in the company of younger people. But she warns: “One should never, never expect them to want one’s company, or make the kind of claims on them that one makes on a friend of one’s own age. Enjoy whatever they are generous enough to offer, and leave it at that.”
The book ends with her realization:
“There are no lessons to be learnt, no discoveries to be made, no solutions to offer. I find myself left with nothing but a few random thoughts. One of them is that from up here I can look back and see that although a human life is less than the blink of an eyelid in terms of the universe, within its own framework it is amazingly capacious so that it can contain many opposites. One life can contain serenity and tumult, heartbreak and happiness, coldness and warmth, grabbing and giving — and also more particular opposites such as a neurotic conviction that one is a flop and a consciousness of success amounting to smugness.”

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