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This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.

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Monday, 7 March 2016

Ageing disgracefully

What a very good collection of short stories "The Lemon Table" is, but one probably has to be of 'a certain age' to appreciate them. Barnes was approaching 60 when this collection was published and is now 70. I wonder if he will venture on more of the same with his added experience? If so I should like to read them.

Image result for Barnes lemon tableAlthough they all bear upon the process of ageing in one way or another they are extremely varied in style. Some are set abroad, some in this country. Some are set in the past, some in the present. Some confront the apparent futility of life, whilst others celebrate its potential right to the end. There is an element of humour in them all - not laugh out loud humour, but rather a wry smile arising in acknowledgement of a point wittily made. Barnes puts words and ideas into the mouths of some of his characters which may shock the casual reader, and no doubt that was his intention, but these elderly people seem authentic to me. I understand that swearing is one of the last means of expressing themselves that the demented lose and that unrestrained behaviour may emerge in the unlikeliest of people.

A lot of attention is given these days to the problems of ageing, especially the scourge of dementia which, it seems to me, has superseded cancer as the great fear for most people. Barnes does the elderly a service by showing them to be as varied, unpredictable, and wilful as anyone else.

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