So Little Time, So Many Books

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A couple of months ago, I reached a major milestone in my life – I turned 70.

How did I feel about it? A little dazed initially. Where had all that time gone to? So fast?

Also a bit pleasantly surprised. That I had outlived my self-imposed “used by” date. Throughout my adult life, I had always thought of myself not surviving beyond age 65. It sounded to me like a decent number of years for a life span. Especially if it is marked by generally good health. And if one manages to complete one’s intended life’s work.

This sentiment was followed immediately by a sense of despair. Due to a sudden realisation of my own mortality and my yet unfinished canvas. Not that I wasn’t thankful for whatever bonus time I had already been granted. 70 is undeniably longer than 65.

Age 70 sees me trying to make up for lost time, whereas according to my plan, I should have already ridden happily into the sunset. So, if I have any lament, what is it? Only this: so little time, so many books.

Oh, I don’t mean to read. I am resigned to the fact that I will never be able to finish all the books I want to read – I’ll need another few lifetimes to do that. I am thinking of all the books that I still want to write.

You see, I came into serious published writing a little late in life. (See my piece entitled, “Starting Late”, June 2015). And I am still trying to play catch-up.

My first collection of short stories (Not The Same Family) was published in 2013, at age 64; I had started writing it 5 years earlier. The second (Tales From The ECP) followed in 2014; I had begun work on it 4 years earlier, writing contemporaneously with NTSF

In May 2015, I started a blog (this one, Living The Writing) featuring my musings on writing, reading, the writing life, and random thoughts on miscellaneous issues. Almost every piece laced with a touch of humour –– I’d always had a thing about humour writing.

The target audience weren’t citizens of the blogosphere per se. The blog was just a convenient platform to showcase my non-fiction prose writing chops. The irony was that the publication of my two books had earned me some notoriety as a short story writer. I wanted then to establish my credentials in the non-fiction prose sphere. In due course, a selection of my ruminations in the blogosphere would be transcribed to the traditional paper-and-print form for the reading pleasure of my non-internet audience.

That was the plan anyway.

But life has an annoying habit of getting in the way of the best laid plans. Disaster struck in mid-2016 in the form of a series of TIAs (transient ischaemic attacks), or what are commonly known as mini-strokes. These were followed 6 months later by a heart attack, which required an open-heart surgery for a double by-pass. Neither incident killed me, obviously, but both have had debilitating effects on me. It had taken me the better part of the last two years to regain my physical health and mental alacrity. The time and effort expended in rehabilitation had, among other things, slowed my writing. Truth be told, I’m still not completely back today, and I doubt I’ll ever be. But I’m determined to try to make up for the lost writing years – God willing.

According to David Renmick of the New Yorker, November, 9 2012 (Philip Roth Says ‘Enough’ ) Philip Roth told the French magazine Les inRocks, “I’m done.” Roth said that when he turned 74 he reread his favourite authors – Dostoyevsky, Conrad, Turgenev, Hemingway. “When I finished, I decided to reread all of my books beginning with the last,“Nemesis”.

In an essay entitled “The Ruthless Intimacy of Fiction”, in his book, “Why Write?” (2017, The Library of America), Roth credited his having been generously granted sufficient time and enough good health for his having finished 31 books.

I don’t have the distinction of being as prolific as Roth. It shouldn’t take me too long to read through my whole body of work. I also haven’t been similarly blessed with Roth’s sufficient time and good health to echo his “Enough”. Instead, all I can and want to say is “Not yet – I think I still have a few more books in me !”