In 1928, when poet William Butler Yeats was in his 60s, he wrote “Sailing to Byzantium,” in which he laments, An aged man is but a paltry thing / A tattered coat upon a stick. Despite his harsh characterization of old age, Yeats himself continued to write late into his life.
Yeats’ older years as a writer, and those of many other creative artists, are the subjects of Nicholas Delbanco’s latest book, Lastingness: The Art of Old Age. Delbanco examines artists who either maintained or advanced their work past the age of 70 — from Claude Monet, to Giuseppe Verdi, to Georgia O’Keeffe.
“It’s not the sort of book I would’ve been interested in writing, much less reading, 30 or 40 years ago,” Delbanco, 68, tells NPR’s Robert Siegel. “But for obvious reasons, the business of old age is of incremental interest to me.”
For the full feature, including a podcast with the author, please see “‘Lastingness': The Creative Art of Growing Old” on NPR’s website.