Saturday, September 09, 2006

Updike, Roth and Marquez look at Aging

It was the title of Gabriel Garcia Marquez latest novel that caught my attention when I was perusing the New York Times Sunday Book Review . "Memories of My Melancholy Whores" promised something quite different from the Columbian Nobel Prize winner. I got a copy from Amazon and gulped it down like a cold beer in July. Later, I re-read many passages and savored the delicate flavor of this short novel.

Next, my wife brought home "Everyman" by Phillip Roth who, according to Wikipedia "is arguably one of the most decorated writers of his era (circa 1934- til present) "Everyman", like "Memories of My Melancholy Whores" by Marquez is a story of aging and death but where Marquez retains a light and humorous approach to the subject throughout his story, Roth's Everyman is crammed with pain, pessimism and death. Updike's opus "Bech at Bay" was published in 1998 when the poet was the author was only 66. Perhaps we can excuse the rather sophomoric tone of the book to the writer's youth. Since then he has written several more books including "Villages" which I read last year and found little in it of interest.

Three authors, close in age, writing about the same issues, contrasting styles and viewpoints but in the end sharing a common preoccupation with their loss of powers and virility. Roth's character still trying to seduce young women from the steps of his nursing home, Updike's Beth starting a new family with his 30-something partner and Gabriel Marquez finally consummating his affair with his melancholy virgin whore on his 91st birthday.

Since I'm a contemporary of all three authors, I can relate directly to their situations. The invisibility, frustration and impotence of humoristicly named "Golden Years". Do we not "Go gentle into that good night" or adjust, accept and ..."fade away..."?


slskenyon said...

Interesting thoughts--and some very good literature here. Perhaps since people tie up their identities with themes like virility, then there is a feeling of "fading away" in later years, although it may be that we must find a variety of ways to create, like these authors did, and then resustain ourselves.

1000myths said...

Many have written about "fading away" or dissappearing as the inevitable result of aging. As if people don't see you any more. Nowhere have I found this more apparent than my contacts with young women who often can ignore my presence completely even when I'm standing less than three feet away.