Following on from my querulous whining on the subject of old age, I noted with satisfaction Robert McCrum’s Guardian piece pointing out that occasionally, people over the age of 40 have succeeded in writing books and poems and things.
And McCrum has a helpful explanation for how such miracles may come to pass:
… these books are invariably love stories, in the broadest sense, inspired by a person or a memory – in Twain’s case, of the Mississippi – for whom the writer calls up one final surge of creative energy.
Ah, yes. I think I’ll call up one final surge of energy and totter off downstairs to brew a pot of tea. If you don’t hear further, assume I expired en route to my desk.
During my recent trip to Edmonton, I underwent what was, for me, a unique experience: I was offered a senior citizens’ discount.
That friendly customer-service smile faded from the salesclerk’s face. Picture, if you will, a jacklit deer.
“I offer it to everyone who looks over forty,” she said.
“I’m not sure I like learning that I look over forty.”
Okay: so there are a few grey hairs. Depending on how you define “few.” And I am barely over forty.
This episode is brought to mind by The New Yorker‘s summer fiction issue, which the dog has not chewed up, and which offers us “20 under 40.”
Yeah, okay. You can see where this is going. There’s a fine line between trenchant commentary and querulous whinging. And I have no idea where that line lies.
The line I can see is the 40-yard line on The New Yorker‘s cover, which seems to imply, through shading, that 40 is the watershed age for a writer. The mass of scribbling writers between 20 and 40 thins out beyond that line, the implication being that if you don’t make it by 40, you’re done—which seems to be the broad cultural assumption that leads not only to “20 under 40″ but to, for example, The Globe & Mail‘s continual rehashing of the “top 30 under 30″ theme, not only for writers but for the world in general.
And, no doubt, to the habit of offering seniors’ discounts to anyone who looks over 40.
On which note, I admit that I took the discount. I’m not proud.