Thursday, 1 December 2011

How Old Do You Need To Be?

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.


Anonymous said...

Burn bright? I think I missed out on the combustible gene! But with the arrival of that middle-aged fat you spoke about perhaps there'll be a little sputtering in the flames in the coming years : ) - Lynne rees

Anonymous said...

Is it just me or does 'cutting edge' start to sound a bit, well ...frayed? - Amanda Rackstraw

Anonymous said...

I certainly live in hope, Peter. - Phil Simmons

Anonymous said...

Old is the new cool. - Elizabeth Burns

Anonymous said...

I hope to do it the other way around, aim to be really famous when Im 100 - Janice Price

Gwil W said...

I packed up with the cigs and started mountain running when I was 40. Not much luck. But then an amazing thing suddenly happened. Turning 60 I soon got a shelf full of trophies. Okay I admit that some of them are basically awarded just for turning up. But one is actually from a WMRA Grand Prix event. And you can't get much higher than that. Like Janice Price, with my present rate of progress, I may finally be famous when I'm 100.