Saturday, November 22, 2008

Will you Still Need Me, Will You Still Read Me ... When I'm 64?

Yusof's comment the other day about so many awards being for younger writers, while there seems to be little for the older writer really got me thinking.

I started writing at 40 and I think I'm quite typical of folks who suddenly realise that life is passing by so quickly and so much is going by unrecorded, and writing was something we'd always meant to do but never quite got round to.

Several of the participants of my creative writing course have been over 60 - one participant was a very lively 84 even, another touching 70. (Though interestingly these older folks have all been British or American - perhaps because in Western cultures learning is seen as lifelong.)

Kathryn Grey in an excellent post on the New Welsh Review writes about the "facism of youth" in the literary world and the neglect of the older writer which I think will have you nodding in agreement, Yusof.

On a related note, four women authors (Helen Oyeyemi 24, Zoe Heller 43, Lionel Shriver 51, and Penelope Liveley 75 - pictured above - discuss how their different ages affect their everyday existence, hopes and fears in a very enjoyable piece in the Telegraph.


Kat said...

Sharon, in eastern cultures too learning is lifelong. Its just that here in Malaysia especially, once we reach 60 or above we tend to lean towards other types of learning - religion perhaps. I know that among many Malay women, there is a tendency to reach out to God once they reach a certain age. So they veer towards the Surau or the Masjid, rather than a classroom. My grand aunt who is 70 now is learning arabic, which is not an easy language to learn.

bibliobibuli said...

you are right about that for sure, and i have examples in my own family that bear you out.

but it would also be nice to see older folks taking classes in creative fields.

... actually it would be nice to see more classes for people to take! in the uk (at least when i last lived there - have things changed?) there were night school classes in just about every subject under the sun (bee keeping, flower aranging, languages, restoring furniture, creative writing etc etc) offered very cheaply by local education authorities. i wish there were something like this here too.

Kak Teh said...

Sharon, there's plenty of evening classes in the UK and I see more and more people my age are going backt o the classroom.Remember, I went back to Uni at the age of 50 and I am considering a course at Birkbeck this January.

I think, here, people dont care so much about age. I remember being in a class with 23 year olds and while I enjoyed and benefitted from their enthusiasm, they felt that they had benefitted from our experience. There were two other older ones, one sixty'ish.
and how timely too - I have written about a malay mak cik experience in an English town in my blog!

bibliobibuli said...

i have loved having a wide mix of ages in my classes and have found it a really enriching experience.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Kat - when I turn 60, I might feel guilty reading and writing about make believe people and situations when I should be spending more time reading the Quran and praying. Heck, I feel guilty now, actually!

But I agree that there should be more awards that are not limited by age. While it's great that so many younger Malaysians are into writing (and I do envy them), there are also those, like me, who started later in life, and we shouldn't be excluded.

ps: Good to know you started relatively late, too, Sharon.

bibliobibuli said...

i think that writing is another way for many folks to put their lives in order - which is a very natural reaction to being older.

but i (personally) reckon you're still part of the world until you shuffle off the mortal coil, and you might have decades left at 60! (look at my friend who is 84 and active and writing, wanting to leave behind fiction for children)

Yusuf Martin said...

Thank you Sharon and yes it was a good article outlining some of the injustices there are in writing and the bias towards the young, once again.

Yusuf Martin said...

Of course there is an entirely different age outlook between East and West.

In the West 50/60 is still considered relatively young, as people regularly live past their 90th year.

Here in Asia generally people retire younger (50/55 as opposed to 60- 70)and expect a shorter life.

Certainly I still have the Western attitude that I am young until I drop dead, whenever that may be and will continue to learn and do new things until then.

At 53 I made a conscious decision to move here (Malaysia) to write. Having had many career paths before.

Anonymous said...

Eastern cultures venerate age, but they discriminate against disability. Western cultures are the other way around :)