Sunday, December 11, 2016

Old Age Lines

When older writers spoke:
As 21st-century writers have transitioned from letter writing to email, a specific literary tradition seems to have come to its end, one that offered a slower, more meditative, and writerly microscope into all aspects of life, including the aging process. Reading these letters is meaningful, not so much because some elderly people are “wise.” Rather, there is much practical and intellectual guidance to be gleaned from spending time with imaginative, highly articulate individuals as they face the existential realities of illness, declining productivity, the death of friends, guilt, and, finally, letting go of cherished activities and passions.

Reading the late letters of Samuel Beckett, it becomes clear his youthful pessimism positioned him quite well for the physical and mental challenges of aging. In his introduction to Beckett’s letters, the editor Dan Gunn writes, “There is a sense in which if ever anyone were suited to, and prepared for, the inevitable winnowings of old age, that person is Beckett, harbouring as he seems to have done, practically from the outset, an old man within him.”
A life well lived should never be lamented...

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