jimvanpelt (jimvanpelt) wrote,

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Angered, Disturbed or Frightened: Can't Tell

Scott Taylor posted a blog about George R.R. Martin, the last two books in the Ice & Fire series, and some thoughts about the impact of aging on writers at the Black Gate web site.

I am simultaneously angered, disturbed or frightened.

Basically, his argument is that A Feast for Crows and A Dance With Dragons suck because Martin has passed his creative prime. He wondered why those two books took so long to write and why they are "complete, rambling turds."  Ouch.

His explanation? "Well, when I got right down to it, there wasn’t any real mystery… the problem here is age."  He goes on to say, ". . . we all have an expiration date. I mean somewhere on our bodies there really should be a label that says, ‘best if used by’."

Double ouch.

At first the whole article pissed me off.  I know George in a passing sort of way from brief encounters at conventions, and in a readerly sort of way by reading his books and blog.  The idea that someone would post in such a public venue that George is getting dotty, at least in his writing, just seems rude.  It's like Taylor forgot that sometime, inevitably, someone will point the article out to George.  I mean, it's one thing to say that you don't like the work that someone has done--writers expect that--but it's quite another to offer a personal explanation based on guesses about the writer.  This is basic, workshop etiquette: you can critique the manuscript, but you can't extend your critique to what you suppose was going on with the writer when it was written, or what the manuscript might reveal to you about the author, etc.  Critique the story, not the writer.

Besides, George is a real person.  A walking, breathing, feeling human being whose feelings have as much of a right not to be assaulted as the next person.  

And a double besides, the basis for Taylor's opinion is that the last two Ice & Fire books suck.  I disagree.  I loved them.  Every chapter struck me as a narrative gem.  I said so in an earlier post.

Yes, yes, I know that George R.R. Martin is a public figure and journalistically open game for fair comment, and that he's a grown adult who can take care of himself.   Still.  Sheesh!

But all that aside, Taylor's opinion touches on a personal hot button topic for me.  What is happening as I age?  We know that at the end of a long life, for almost everyone, there's a diminishing of mental capacity.  Senile dementia in a variety of flavors and forms seem to be awaiting.  Argh!  What's disturbing about this is that it's probably not likely for most people that they'll be tooling along at full mental capacity one day, and then click into reduced mental capacity the next.  There's a slide into recognizable symptoms.

When does that slide begin?  How does that slide impact creativity and the ability to produce interesting and vital new work?  I think Taylor asks legitimate questions, even if we can't quite agree on a definition of "interesting" and "vital."

It doesn't help that Taylor's list of authors who did their best work early has them all finishing before they reach sixty, except for Asimov and McCaffrey, who he suggests were less effective after sixty-five.  "Hey," says the fifty-seven-year old me.  "I'm standing right here!"

Of course, what I have to conclude is that for me, personally, and for every other creative person out there, the answer to the questions about mental decay and age have no relevance, on the personal level.  It's not like I'll wake up one day, realize I've lost my last bit of edge, and then totter over to my rocking chair.  I'll continue to write as long as I have things to say.  I'll try to continue to grow and improve in my craft as long as I'm still working at it.

I assume that's what every writer does.  I'll bet it's what George R.R. Martin does too.

If you have more interest in the topic of age and creativity, I'd suggest getting a copy of Nicholas Delbanco's Lastingness: the Art of Old Age.  
Tags: links, reviews, writing
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