Writing Old Age

Book Cover - Writing Old AgeEdited by Julia Johnson.
Centre for Policy on Ageing/Open University
ISBN 1901097552

Hannah Zeilig, in considering six popular novels of the 1920s, comes to the nub of this short but almost unfailingly interesting collection when she writes: “Whilst we cannot claim fiction to be fact, if we examine it carefully, it does make visible that which other documents from the times have hidden.”

The essays also discuss other types of creative writing. Even the well-read will find work which they have not come across, while work which they may know well is given a new perspective – ageing and old age, often seen from the perspective of women.

The chapters consider residential care and how the private sector, which now dominates the market, is not so open to academic research as the public sector. There is an intriguing analysis of the poem “Kate”, as well as speculation on its authorship, and the fiction of Stanley Middleton, currently in his 80s and still publishing. I found Margaret Morganroth Gullette’s chapter on the Sartre and de Beauvoir tapes less helpful, largely because of the writer’s often dense style.

This collection illustrates how creative writing can explore the private emotional work largely hidden from the sociologist, as well as setting it in historical, cultural and other contexts.

Terry Philpot is a writer.

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