Publishers Weekly Review

Lastingness: The Art of Old Age

Nicholas Delbanco, Grand Central, $24.99 (288 p) ISBN 978-0-446-19964-3

Why do so many creative minds become more productive and flourish with age? Delbanco (The Beaux Arts Trio), one of America’s most influential literary writers and critics, tackles this question, brushing aside the national obsession with youth to measure mature artists hitting their stride while meeting the demands of old age. Whether in the concert hall, on canvas, or on the page, the quality of lastingness–the ability to endure and hone one’s talents despite advanced age or illness–is not guaranteed to all artists. Quoting Cyril Connolly, Delbanco writes, “the best thing that can happen for a writer is to be taken up very late or very early. ” He approaches the theme of constancy and durability with wit and colorful detail, listing the talents who have thrived in old age: Herman Melville, Doris Lessing, Harriet Doerr, Georgia O’ Keeffe, Alice Munro, Alice Neel, Philip Roth, and William Trevor. Delbanco presents a balanced, informed dialogue that never bores or gets long-winded. In the end, the skillful artist adapts to meet challenges in life and renews his or her creative impulses. (Jan.)

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