Do you need to be young to cut at the edge? Maybe the best thing is to burn bright and soon and then vanish. Arthur Rimbaud did this. J D Salinger too. Not quite one hit wonders but writers who said what they had to and then removed themselves from the literary scene. Other concerns, other fears, other things to do.
The alternative is to die. And to do that while still at the precipice of promise or, certainly, with still a lot in there to give. Jimi Hendrix, Shelley, Byron, Hart Crane, Emily Bronte, Sylvia Plath, Jim Morrison, Amy Winehouse, Buddy Holly. Not many from Wales. Round here in the rain we tend to resolutely hang on.
When I was young I firmly believed that it all happened then. Now I’m no longer I don’t. Big Bill Broonzy, I often quote, did not learn to play a guitar until he was forty. That gives credibility to the state of the late starter. Everything is still possible – and that despite your eyes starting to fail and the fat arriving. Although it turns out that Big Bill was nearer thirty when he bought his first guitar. He actually played the fiddle before that.
No matter. Can we still be at the cutting edge in retirement? Bob Cobbing was, roaring his sonic poetic wonders until well into his eighties. Although it can and has been argued that his ground-breaking all happened when he was much younger. The latter-day work was mere permutation, extension and repeat.
I’m really not sure.
But I am certain that the future should be firmly in the hands of those who are going to occupy it. That includes the whole digital text, end of the book as we know it rigmarole too. I’ve said it before and I’ll do so here again, critical articles in Planet notwithstanding. The ultimate future is no longer with hard copy print. Those who love paper will be safe until they die out. But then the keyboard thumb will become master.
Meanwhile the older person still rocks. Just about.