Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Clive James and Martin Amis on ageing

If you look in the forthcoming events section of any national newspaper or political magazine or literary journal, you can't help but be struck by the vast number of intellectual events taking place on any night of the week. In London.

Rather than moaning about this, I went to an event last night at the University of Manchester where Martin Amis (60) and Clive James (70) were talking about ageing in literature. How the voices of the aged were sadly missing - how Dickens and Shakespeare died in their 50s. Where then is there a voice from the elderly?

Fascinating it was. Amis opened up by bemoaning the later works of John Updike, who had "lost his ear".

James retorted with several aces skillfully flipped on the table: Tolstoy, Goethe, Yeats. In particular Yeats "exploited the power of reflection, a transparency denied to the young," said James.

They both had the intellectual sharpness, but confessed to rattling a little.

Speaking to Clive James afterwards he spoke of his own impatience and vigour for the web. His own work in progress - CliveJames.com - he finds intruiging and beguiling. Oh to be young again.

The audience was appreciative and lapped it up. There is a healthy intellectual life here, but it needs feeding and supporting.

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