Although Delbanco recognizes that reasons vary for the late success of some artists--good genes and good luck contribute--he finds patterns in the lives and careers of his subjects. First of all, they seem to have been able to retain a fresh curiosity, an "unabated desire, unflagging expressive ambition; old age slowed and changed but did not staunch their need to look, listen, or write." In addition, these great elders all seem to have been unwilling to repeat themselves, to replay their past successes: "What [the old creative artist] may lose in brilliance he gains in objectivity; what she relinquishes in prowess she gains in grasp and reach. It's adaptive energy that is entailed in 'lastingness,' not mere sheer repetition." An aging baby boomer who hopes for the possibility of another twenty-five or even thirty years of continued work--oh, someone like myself, for instance--can find something of more than interest in this book; he or she can find a significant straw that we can cling to.
Nicholas Delbanco reads from and discusses Lastingness: The Art of Old Age at Nicola's Books on February 8.
[Originally published in February, 2011.]