September 24, 2004



You're beginning to sound like Donner ;-)

Donner: I think it's rubbish.

Beauchamp: Oh. You mean, a sort of tonal debris, as it were?

Donner: No, rubbish, general rubbish. In the sense of being worthless, without value; rot, nonsense. Rubbish, in fact.

Beauchamp: Ah. The detritus of audible existence, a sort of refuse heap of sound.

Donner: I mean, *rubbish*. I'm sorry, Beauchamp, but you must come to terms with the fact that our paths have diverged. I very much enjoyed my years in that child's garden of easy victories known as the avant garde, but I am now involved in the infinitely more difficult task of painting what the eye sees... I have returned to traditional values, that is where the true history of art continues to lie, not in your small jokes. I make no apology for the past, but precocity at our age is faintly ludicrous, don't you think?

Jimmy Beck

From one old fart to another, I hoist my flagon to you.


Mark, have you read Transit of Venus yet? Some say even better than The Great Fire. It made me want to weep with gratitude for its existence. How wonderful if you still have it in store.

This is a fascinating post you've written.


Beatles cover band? That just about explains everything.

Jacky Treehorn


Wonderfully humble and honest post on the difficulties of time wreaking mischief on your taste and values. Contrast it with those who have not and will not change from Day One..

Dan Green

A thoughtful and enjoyable post, but I think you make a mistake in framing your response as old vs new or old vs. young. The sort of thing David Mitchell does goes back as far as Laurence Sterne and Rabelais. In fact, if "psychological realism" is what you're after, then the sort of thing Hazzard does, in terms of literary history, is young indeed. It probably doesn't go back any farther than Henry James. (Shakespeare is an exception, but Shakespeare is an exception to everything.)


Food for thought:

John Barth on Borges & Calvino: "Neither writer, for better or for worse, was a creator of memorable characters or a delineator of grand passions, although in a public conversation in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1975, in answer to the question 'What do you regard as the writer's chief responsibility?' Borges unhesitatingly responded, 'The creation of character.' A poignant response from a great writer who never really created any characters; even his unforgettable Funes the Memorious, as I have remarked elsewhere, is not so much a character as a pathological characteristic. And Calvino's charming Qwfwq and Marco Polo and Marcovaldo and Mr. Palomar are archetypal narrative functionaries, nowise to be compared with the great pungent characters of narrative/dramatic literature. A first-rate restaurant may not offer every culinary good thing; for the pleasures of acute character-drawing as of bravura passions, one simply must look elsewhere than in the masterful writings of Jorge Luis Borges and Italo Calvino."

More analysis from Waggish here (where I found the link from):



And I do love Borges. And Calvino. And Barth. So perhaps there's hope for me.

Dan, your point is well taken. I was iffy about the terms "young" and "old" even as I was using them, and your bit of perspective is a helpful reminder. Although I would still say that Sterne's characters "vibrate" for me in a way that Mitchell's don't quite.

I do think the designation of "psychological realism" is infinitely more useful.


You are the best literary blogger. I love your links and writing style. That's all.


Happy birthday, what a nice blog.
Did you know, Mark, that Shirley Hazzard also wrote a memoir about her time living on Capri, (where she still owns a house) and her acquaintance with Graham Greene when he visited there? The title has Capri in it somewhere.

Old Hag

Just to bring the conversation down to the gutter, I will say that I have always liked it as long and as hard as possible.


Happy birthday. We're all getting old, so at least we have company. xoxo


Forty makes you a young pup in my book.

The word 'old' seems to conjure feelings of what? Diminshed capacity? Declining creative prowess ? Physical frailty?

To quote Public Enemy, "Don't believe the hype."

Feliz Complinanos


Happy birthday! I hope the celebration was stylish and hangoverless.

I don't believe you're old until you're dead.

Bud Parr @ Chekhov's Mistress

Not to be a downer, but here are a couple of quotes I posted last summer in response to how I felt *before* turning 40. So, in the spirit of someone who just turned the same corner:

“I am now forty years old, and, after all, forty years is a whole lifetime; after all, it’s the most extreme old age. To live beyond forty is indecent, banal, immoral! Who lives beyond forty - answer me sincerely, honestly? I’ll tell you who does: fools and scoundrals do.”

- Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground

“I am forty years old, an ugly age: one is still young enough to have dreams, but already too old to fulfill any of them. This is the age when the restlessness in every man subsides so he can become strong by habit and by the certainty he has acquired of the infirmity to come.”

- Mesa Selimovic, Death and the Dervish

Of course, it's not so bad once your there. In the words of Sinatra "The best is yet to come. Happy Birthday.

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