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Ageless Amaryllis

I have been giving some thought to ageing: not in relation to myself being of an eternally youthful, ‘age cannot wither her’ sort of person but as portrayed on screen and in books. I have seen two films recently and amazingly the middle-aged female characters actually had faces that moved and wrinkled in joy, despair, horror and grief. Annette Benning in Twentieth Century Women and Nathalie Baye in It’s Only the End of the World were actually able to give vent to a whole gamut of emotions because their faces weren’t frozen in immobility, the mask that passes for eternal youth these days…
 
Even older age and the proximity of death is the subject of Memento Mori by Muriel Spark, the book we discussed at this morning’s meeting. A nameless caller on the telephone reminds his elderly victims to ‘remember you must die’ a fact that most of them spend all their life trying to forget. Resigned patience and forbearance are not characteristics common to this group of who gripe and grumble and sleep and stumble their way to the inevitable end. They are wilful and selfish, domineering and dismissive determined to remain in control even if it is only by making and remaking their wills, gloating over the obituaries or comparing own debility to the even worse decrepitude of others. However the book is actually very funny due to the author’s acuity of observation and her merciless exposure of the frailties and hypocracies of mere humans. Memento Mori originated to remind people that not only must they die, they must then be judged. I plan to reintroduce the use of this warning to everyone who uses a mobile phone in the quiet carriage! [T writes: or the bookshop for that matter]  
I have mentioned elsewhere that a lonely soul is mine, never happier than striding across moor and mountain at one with the elements so I really thought I had found my soul mate in another book that I read this week: The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel. This is the extraordinary true story of a hermit who decided to turn his back on the world aged 21 and lived undiscovered for 25 years in a forest in Maine surviving sub-zero winters living in a tent with just a calor gas stove for warmth. He stole what he needed in terms of food and supplies from a nearby cabin resort and one of these raids ultimately led to his capture and, with terrible irony, a term of imprisonment for theft. This story is a perfect antidote to the noise and light pollution, the overcrowding of cities and the terrible greed for more and more stuff. Unsurprisingly, the legal system did not really know how to deal with such a case… At one point in the book, Finkel asks himself and others when was the last time and for how long they could remember being totally alone – again unsurprisingly, the answer was practically never, certainly no longer than a few hours. Apparently, people who spend time alone are actually more intelligent than those who don’t – well I should know!
 
From old age to youth, young girls in particular, nymphs! Yes, I am reading Lolita as chosen by JAM for our classics book group. It is difficult to explain the reading experience in regard to this book, appreciation of the language and writing, revulsion at Humbert’s obsession, slightly guilty laughter at the comedy. Should be a very interesting discussion…

About Amaryllis

 

Amaryllis is our bookshop blogger.

 

Her pen name is taken from Alice Thomas Ellis’ Other Side of the Fire, which is unfortunately and scandalously out of print. One of the funniest bits in the book is the bodice-ripper that one of the characters is writing and the female - who slays the men with one toss of her raven locks and one glance from her fiery green eyes as she strides among the glens, faithful wolfhound by her side - is Amaryllis! And the name just seemed to suit so here we are.

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