Some research I did when I was younger indicated that the most common age for publishing a literary masterpiece was 41, and most of the runner-up ages were within a few years of that. Just to take some of the biggest names, Tolstoy was exactly 41 when War and Peace came out, Joyce 40 at the publication of Ulysses, Proust 42 for Swann's Way, Tom Jones came out when Fielding was 42, Kafka died at 41 but had to that point been working on and was nearly finished, it seems, The Castle, Shakespeare knocked out King Lear at 40, Hamlet at 41 and Macbeth at 42, Dickens Bleak House, which seems to be widely held among the most exacting readers nowadays to be his best book, at 41. In short, I should be hitting my peak as an author just about now (of course, if I put out an edition of my one finished novel sometime in the next year or two and never manage another one, this would appear to have been the case with me as well, on my own microscopic scale, however the bulk of this book, and all of the lively part of it, was written ten and eleven years ago, when I was in my late twenties). In reality, my ability to write anything requiring more than a modicum of complicated reasoning and construction seems to have collapsed entirely. The knowledge of how to do this, which I attained through many years of study and practice, is still there, I assume. I am unfortunately one of those people who requires a greater than usual amount of concentration and undistracted rumination to get at thoughts, feel the atmosphere and movement of stories, the rhythms of words strung together, I don't carry them about in the forefront of my consciousness, ready to spring forth in a conversational manner at a moment's notice. This indicates perhaps that writing was not really my proper vocation, that I have wasted too many valuable years in trying to fit myself into an attitude and a relation to the world that did not suit me. There was at least however no obvious path to follow that I have rejected. The forefront of my consciousness, as it is, is strangely empty, strangely uninstinctive, strangely indifferent even. Did I not try to give it some sort of form through all of this seemingly pointless activity, these attempts at rumination and exposure to art, to books, to simulations of experience that I do not naturally seem to feel, it is not clear to me what more desirable natural being, as has been hinted to me by more than one person, might be supposed to exist there. I don't perceive any such person to have ever been lying in potentia there, muffled by my habits.
I never expected I would be the sort of person to take a family vacation in Florida every winter. It has only been four years, and may be a phase that will run its course, and we will then go to Italy in the winter, or sit shivering in our unheated and darkened house roasting a single moldy potato over a small hearth-fire for the family dinner, as some pessimists are predicting will be the typical family's lot within a couple of years. In recent years the length of the winter has finally begun to weary me. Even now, on March 26, I am feeling a bit chilly as I type this, it is 35 degrees and windy outside and there are still good-size patches of snow all over the yard, though the light at least is a spring light. When I was in high school in Maine, it did not bother me in the least, indeed I liked it. There were enough things to look forward to, parties, games, seeing one's friends, seeing pretty girls every day except Sunday, to distract one's mind from the fact that one was constantly freezing. That is why, I have no doubt, people in these small cities and towns in New England, like the one portrayed in the play Our Town, used to have things like church suppers, dances, dinner parties, a strict routine of visiting rounds, and so on, to literally keep them from killing themselves. Now we have television and the computer, I guess, and I will say, a very good movie or piece of reading--especially to me, as I never talk anyway--is still sort of like spending a few hours with amusing company, and I feel in a somewhat rejunvenated state for a little while afterwards, though of course such productions are quite rare, and are all by themselves ultimately no substitution for real socialization, even the most brilliant of them.
This picture was taken in South Carolina on the way down. This place was a depressing dump, as is just about everything off of I-95 between Richmond and the southern limits of Jacksonville, at least. That is one dreary corridor of our nation. If I had more time I would go another way, because I know the real NC-SC-Ga etc isn't really like that.
I succumbed to the temptation to stop and check out St Augustine when passing by it, against my better instincts. Not that it is not a worthy, pleasant and historic town, but it is really popular, as in, traffic backed up 4 miles out of town and six story parking garages to handle all the visitors popular. As I often do I was basing my anticipations of my visit on pictures I had seen in a travel book from the 1950s, imagining I would pull up the old car right at the edge of the historic area, stroll around for an hour, have a leisurely and inexpensive lunch perhaps in an uncrowded outdoor cafe. That was not to be. We ended up wandering around this 17th century fort for about an hour with several hundred other equally disorganized people before moving on.
I would still go back there sometime though. I would plan ahead, or stay overnight or something, figure out what it was I wanted to do there. Unfortunately if you go to a place that is touristic chaos, you need to have some focus or it will defeat you, knock off your equilibrium, whatever. Maybe there is really nothing there for me to get out of it. I don't know.
While we stay in the resort with the world-famous white sand, we start to crack under the strain of so much luxury and have to retreat one day to the public brown sand beach. This is Turtle Beach, on Siesta Key (Sarasota), which is all in all a fine beach in its own right.
A more active generation of seniors means the shuffleboard courts lie idle. This is a very nice, well-maintained court too. I've never seen anyone playing on it.
Back on our white sand beach. The picture looks cute, but when your own mother makes statements about you like "The child is a barbarian" as this person's does, you have some issues. There is a neighbor girl who is 4 days older than Georgie who reads, uses the potty, and has excellent manners without even being prodded. Georgie does none of these things. In temperament he seems to have more in common with Dionysius the tyrant of Syracuse than he does with me.