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Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Old Tales

Still thinking about Pepy's lonely wife. Nothing changes (but at least he noticed...). It's always the small personal details that strike through from the past. Perhaps of all the things Granny has ever seen in a museum, the ones affected her most were in a museum in Luxor, from 2400BC. A comb she could use herself, a chair she could sit in. So commonplace. And in context so profound.

Time for quote 2. About age this time. Philip Roth: a book called The Dying Animal, about an old man (younger than Granny too!) and his love-affair with a much younger woman. (Not actually her favourite subject, but never mind this.) He says: to those not yet old, being old means you've been. But being old means that, despite, in addition, and in excess of your beenness, you still are. Your beanness is very much alive. You still are, and one is as haunted by the still being and its fullness as by the having-already-been and it's pastness. .....One cannot evade knowing what shortly awaits one.....Otherwise it's all the same. Otherwise one is immortal for as long as one lives.

Oh to dare use a non-word like 'beenness.' Wonderful. And he goes on.

Not many years ago, there was a ready-made way to be old, just as there was a ready-made way to be young. Neither obtains any longer. A great fight about the permissable took place here -and a great overturning. ....What can I do about the fact that as far as I can tell nothing, nothing is put to rest however old a man may be?

There's some special pleading about sexuality here of course, but nothing wrong with that - Granny applauds the woman of 67 who advertised for lovers so she could experience real sexual love before it was too late; and then wrote about it all. Good on her, she says. Even though it wouldn't be her way - she's perfectly happy to admit that at her age sex can still be a pleasure, but that's it. But the main argument stands. The lives of the old are still life, 'ares' maybe, and still lives as they choose to make them, mind and body allowing. (Am reminded again here, of visiting a cancer hospital years ago, with an artist friend who ran a class there; and coming away thinking; the important fact about these people is not that they were dying; but that they were ALIVE.) And we - our generation are re-making these lives. That's what so interesting. Writing about them, too, maybe. Not like Kingsley Amis - 'The Old Boys' was about the unregenerated way of being old; miserable old gits decaying in the pub. We can do better than that. We do. We will.


1 Old comments:

Blogger Deirdre said...

Oh, go granny! I love this stuff. Ageism is the new sexism, I'm thinking. Just the fact you're writing under the name "granny" implies (I'm obviously guessing here) a certain sort of proud swagger, which I applaud. As for Philip Roth's "... one is immortal for as long as one lives...", rousing cheers.

And I'm with you on the "small personal details" thing, though maybe it's a matter of individual taste. Big view or small view - maybe the important thing is looking.

1:37 pm  

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