Sunday, June 2, 2013

A First Novel after Fifty . . .

I've spent the past few decades proving that I'm no prodigy, with some success. My first short story did not appear in print until I was thirty-one, and that first article in the New York Times did not arrive until I reached forty.

John McPhee, by contrast, published at least fifteen books before age fifty. Very good books, written at what he considers a painstakingly slow pace.

Such comparisons are silly, of course, but if you read a lot, and spend many hours in bookstores, it's hard not to wonder at one's own insufficiencies.

Now that I've been lucky enough to pass fifty—and see my first novel available on Amazon—I discover that no less an authority than the BBC has declared that "fifty is the perfect age to write a novel."

It's a questionable pronouncement, based on this lone statistic: "the average age of writers who topped the hardback fiction section of the New York Times Bestseller List from 1955–2004 was 50.5 years." Which means, by my calculations, that the actual writing must have occurred when the author's average age was quite a bit less than fifty.

But the reason I bring all this up boils down to one word: hope. Anyone who knows me well will attest to the fact that I am easily distracted. This is not to say that I don't work very hard, only that my mind is quick to focus on the next item of interest, which is equally likely to be a poem or a paragraph, a bird or a fish.

So if I can do it, you can too . . .