Is there ageism in literature ?

Over weekend reading the various reviews of Gunter Grass new novel/autobiography .I was struck by how often Grass age was mentioned and the fact the work was weak due to age ,over the years I ve seen this time and time again ,Jackie at farm lane books did a post about relating to writers age earlier this year .Know on whole I don’t look at  writers age ,although have notice some books by younger writers appeal to me less than they would have done ten years ago .so if your a writer in your 80’s does it mean your book is not going to be good as the book you wrote in your forties ? If you believe the reviewers then it is not going to be ,last year I read a great debut by the writer of Mr Magoo ,his debut novel Bowl of cherries by Millard Kaufman when he was 86 a wonderfully wacky and funny novel .so does age matter ?

15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. nymeth
    Nov 03, 2010 @ 11:54:32

    I can’t say I have ever paid much conscious attention to authors’ ages, which of course doesn’t mean it hasn’t influenced me in ways I’m not aware of. But I can think of some authors I love who are getting on with years (Byatt, Atwood) and whose work I think keeps getting better and better. One thing I do notice is that there’s a marked lack of older protagonists in literature (there are exceptions, of course, such as The History of Love), which probably reflect our general belief as a society that older people just don’t lead interesting lives – and that seems a shame.


    • winstonsdad
      Nov 03, 2010 @ 11:57:20

      true I can’t think of many books of top my head with older characters as the main person ,I m not influenced by age either just annoyed that when writers reach a certain age that is the first think mentioned ,all the best stu


  2. amymckie
    Nov 03, 2010 @ 12:28:50

    Interesting post Stu. I really never know how old an author is, I very rarely look it up, so doesn’t really relate to me. I think what is important to people and what they write about might change as they age, and thus different parts of the population, age wise, might love the book. I do think though that some authors just get better and better with age as they perfect their craft.


    • winstonsdad
      Nov 03, 2010 @ 13:48:59

      yes I think grass has written great books in recent years and roth but ,whenever I see a review 8 times out of 10 there age is mentioned first off ,all the best stu


  3. Jackie (Farm Lane Books)
    Nov 03, 2010 @ 13:05:06

    Like Nymeth and Amy I rarely know an author’s age before starting a book, but I have found that I often prefer books written by authors slightly older than me. I don’t think there is ageism in publishing, but if an author is particularly old (or young) then I’m not surprised that their age is mentioned – it makes them stand out from the crowd and could be argued it is a positive. I’m sad to hear that some people are saying that older writers can’t write good books. That isn’t true at all.


    • winstonsdad
      Nov 03, 2010 @ 13:47:36

      I think it is mainly bigger writers grass roth in particular ,what ever they wrote in recent times isn’t going be a tin drum or pourtney but feel bot there books recently refelct there age well and just as good earlier works ,all the best stu


  4. Lisa Almeda Sumner
    Nov 03, 2010 @ 13:10:18

    Great question Stu! Writing does seem to be one of the few professions with no expiration date, but I believe there is a sometimes subtle, sometimes not-so-subtle ageism at work in contemporary life. Wisdom is supposed to come with age, and for the most part I think it does, so age should be an advantage for writers.


  5. parrish
    Nov 04, 2010 @ 17:49:56

    Good Subject, although like most age has not been a deciding factor.


  6. Valerie
    Nov 04, 2010 @ 18:50:49

    both yours and Jackie’s posts bring up good points about age. I guess when an author is published (and are successful_ either in their 20s or 80s, there is awe that it can be done. I’ve only read “The Tin Drum” and that was several years ago, so I can’t compare it to Grass’ other works, but maybe part of the amazement is that an 80 year old is sharp enough to even write. Too many people think that once past a certain age, you must be brain dead.

    If I really, really like a book I’m reading, it does get me curious about the author, and so I do know that I find they tend to be around the same age I am currently when they wrote the book. (lousy sentence, I hope that made sense)


  7. Willa
    Nov 04, 2010 @ 19:30:29

    good question Stu. To me, age doesn’t matter though I am sometimes impressed by the capacities of very young writers.


  8. Kinna
    Nov 07, 2010 @ 10:00:15

    I don’t think that age matters at all. Jose Saramago started writing in his late 60s. I think what matters is a willingness to work on their craft and a drive and ability to put together a really engaging book. This can happen at any age.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

November 2010


%d bloggers like this: