wordweaverlynn: (reader)
[personal profile] wordweaverlynn
Walking past a used-book store today, I spotted _The Element of Lavishness_ on the sale shelves. It's the 40-year correspondence between Sylvia Townsend Warner and William Maxwell, who was her editor at the New Yorker for much of that time.

Yes, I'm trying to downsize my library. Yes, it's a hardback. Yes, it was absolutely the book I needed.

STW is a writer of wit, grace, and secret power, like a figure skater making Olympic leaps look effortless. She's sharply observant and profoundly humane. It's been years since I read her books, but I'm planning to read them all again.

Along with the sheer delight of her style, I'm finding another value in these letters. They cover the decades from her 40s until her death well into her 80s, and I'm starting to look for lanterns to light my path through middle age and beyond. Not that I need advice on how to age; time is taking good care of that. But dealing with aging is something else, and Warner discusses it frankly, along with her writing, her travels, and her cats.

I'll be re-reading May Sarton's novels and journals and poetry, too. She writes explicitly about aging as well.

Is there something about lesbian or bisexual writers that makes them more willing to talk about these things? Or do they speak about the changes in words that make sense to me, rather than straight women lamenting that men don't look at them any more? Or have I just not read the right books?

Anybody else who is writing with honesty and vigor about aging?

A few quotes from Sylvia Townsend Warner:

“One doesn’t become a witch to run around being helpful either…. It’s to escape all that – to have a life of one’s own, not an existence doled out to you by others, charitable refuse of their thoughts, so many ounces of stale bread of life a day.”


“Young people are careless of their virginity; one day they may have it and the next not.”


“There is a moral, of course, and like all morals it is better not pursued.”


“She was heavier than he expected - women always are.”


“The fatal law of gravity; when you are down, everything falls down on you.”


“It is best as one grows older to strip oneself of possessions, to shed oneself downward like a tree, to be almost wholly earth before one dies.”

(no subject)

Date: 2012-08-05 12:46 pm (UTC)
hunningham: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hunningham
Isn't she a wonderful writer! I have a copy of this book, and am inspired to go and re-read. There are several books of her letters & diaries, all wonderful, all worth seeking out.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-08-05 03:33 pm (UTC)
wild_irises: (Default)
From: [personal profile] wild_irises
I'm reading a very different book about editing (and not about aging) which I hope to talk to you about (and maybe even write about here).

Margaret and Helen are a good source for ongoing blogging about aging, and the (progressive) viewpoint of these two particular aging women.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-08-05 11:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ethelmay.livejournal.com
I'm just reading this as well, having previously gulped down Maxwell's correspondence with Eudora Welty, which led me to read a bunch of Welty (whom I'd somehow missed reading much of before) and a bunch of Maxwell (OMG The Folded Leaf, so much to process).

I've just gotten to the bit where Maxwell is so knocked flat by one of her stories that he sends her a cable saying nothing but "OH. OH. OH." Think of being able to send a cable like that, knowing it would be absolutely understood.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-08-06 01:12 am (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
Oh, this is great. I need this book now.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-08-06 01:30 am (UTC)
amaebi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] amaebi
I haven't read much Warner, though I have quite a bit, currently in boxes. What I really remember is Lolly Willowes.

I have been wanting to just turn to being a witch for decades now.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-08-06 04:12 am (UTC)
metaphortunate: (Default)
From: [personal profile] metaphortunate
God that sounds great. Now I want it!

Hmm...

Date: 2012-08-06 08:54 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
>>Anybody else who is writing with honesty and vigor about aging?<<

I don't know whether or not you'll like the way I write senior characters, but let's see ... Shahana in Path of the Paladins is past her prime but still fighting, all ages are covered in Hart's Farm and the elders are crucial to the community, and Monster House has a grandmother appearing several times. Those may be found through my Serial Poetry page:
http://penultimateproductions.weebly.com/serial-poetry.html

Torn World does a pretty great job of featuring older characters too, especially because the timeline structure lets us move through whole lifetimes.
http://www.tornworld.net/index.php

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