Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Until the Absolute End

The other day online, in The Guardian, I read an article about the great filmmaker John Boorman. He is, of course, the man who directed Point Blank, Deliverance, Hope and Glory, and Excalibur -- favorites all of mine -- not to mention oddities like Zardoz and one of the worst big-budget horror films ever made, Exorcist II: The Heretic. Of Boorman, one thing at least cannot be said: that he ever shied away from venturing into unchartered territory.  The Guardian mentions fellow British filmmakers Nicholas Roeg and Ken Russell as his closest contemporaries, a statement accurate enough, and like them, he can be hit or miss with his films.  When they work, his films can be great; when they fail, they can be disasters, but not for lack of ambition or inventiveness. I've seen most, not all, of Boorman's films, and I can say I've never found any of his movies that worst of things -- dull.

Anyway, if you'd like to read the article, it's a good read.  It's a nice portrait of the artist in old age.  Boorman is 87, living alone in a huge house in Ireland, but in nothing like what you would call his dotage. 

Here's the article, if you want to read it: You Think the Holy Grail is Lost. No, I Have It On My Piano.

He makes one particular point that struck a chord with me.  Of old age he says, with a measure of humor, that it's "a series of giving things up.  I can't swim, I can't run, I can't drive a car or ride horses."

Now I'm 30 years younger than Boorman, but what he says got me thinking.  Already, there are activities I used to do and don't anymore because they are tough on the body.  I used to run for two or three miles on a regular basis, for example, on the streets wherever I was living, but I don't do that anymore because it leaves my knees feeling sore.  If I keep doing that, I fear, I'll wind up damaging those knees and since I've never, through all my years of running and playing tennis, had the slightest problem with my knees, I don't want to bring anything on now. 

And so it goes.  Everyone has their list of physical problem areas that limit what they can do.  I've never had to worry much about anything like that, so now that age is putting up specific barriers - nothing major but nagging little things - I think about them fairly often.  

Which brings me to writing.  What's one of the greatest things about it?  Simple: if you have your mind and even reasonable physical health, it's not something that, because of age, you have to say, "I can't do it."  I assume nearly everything is harder to do at 87 than at 57 just like a lot of things at 57 are harder to do than at 27, but even so, it's good to know that writing is there for you to do until the absolute end. Hell, Boorman himself, as the article says, has just finished a book, something that's "part memoir, part instruction manual".

I was recently having a talk with a friend who's a writer and much younger than me, twenty-four years younger to be exact.  He said how at his age, his main priority is doing the work, writing the books, enjoying the process of writing the books, and what comes will come.  Keep doing what he's doing and build up his body of "stuff".  At his age, he's got time, and who knows what can happen?  He's in it for the long haul, and that means twenty, thirty, forty years.

Though much older, I feel pretty much the same as my friend.  I said as much.  I told my friend that at 57, I don't feel cramped for time.  With fiction, I write slowly, so I do my best to make sure I write the books or the stories I really really want to write, but beyond that, I'm good.  It's basically this: as age continues to make its mark, I do what I can to stay fit and maintain energy, and I know (and hope) that writing isn't something I should have to give up because of age. It's unusual like that, writing is, say whatever else you want to say about it.

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