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Delicious descriptions from Down under: Julian Barnes on ageing and memory

April 27, 2012

This is the second Delicious Description I have written about ageing. It probably won’t be the last because, being a woman of a certain age, I am starting to connect with authors who explore the impact of ageing. I loved Barnes’ description of failing memory in his The sense of an ending (which I recently reviewed):

When you start forgetting things – I don’t mean Alzheimer’s, just the predictable consequences of ageing – there are different ways to react. You can sit there and try to force your memory into giving up the name of that acquaintance, flower, train station, astronaut … Or you admit failure and take practical steps with reference books and the internet. Or you can just let it go – forget about remembering – and then sometimes you find that the mislaid fact surfaces an hour or a day later, often in those long waking nights that age imposes. Well, we all learn this, those of us who forget things.

They say you should write about things you know about. It sure feels like Julian Barnes knows about this!

12 Comments leave one →
  1. April 27, 2012 23:01

    Oh dear, yes, I can relate to this too…

    • April 27, 2012 23:55

      Oh yes, I think we people of a certain age can, can’t we Lisa? Barnes is a little older than we are but not so much that we can’t share fellow feeling eh? This book is full of wonderful observations.

  2. April 27, 2012 23:22

    I’ve not gotten to the forgetting things stage yet. I’m currently distressed about how blurry up close things have become. I’ve worn reading glasses since 1990 but it was not because I needed them to actually see but because I read so much I’d get eyestrain headaches. Within the last two years I actually need them to see up close! I can’t read labels with small print anymore unless I have my glasses on. Anyway, I put this book on hold at my library yesterday. I am something like number 256 in line for it. Popular book in Minneapolis apparently 🙂

    • April 27, 2012 23:58

      Wow, Stefanie … that’s great, given that it’s some time now since it won the award. I won’t hold my breath waiting for your review though.

      I first got glasses in my mid 40s – for reading – for the same reason you did but it didn’t take long before I really needed them. I now wear multifocals all the time. There are worse things but once upon a time I was proud of my eyesight.

  3. April 28, 2012 20:53

    Or, in the case of my almost-25 year old brain, sometimes it takes two years to remember a fact (the Anna from Downton Abbey being from Robin Hood thing)…

    • April 28, 2012 20:57

      Ha, ha, trust me, Hannah, a 25-year-old brain is yet to discover the joys of forgetting!
      BTW Hannah, you know your mother is wonderful, not just as a mother, don’t you?

      • April 28, 2012 21:08

        If it gets worse than it is already, then I’m worried! (Why I can’t remember important details about my days now but can still remember our American phone number from when I was 4, I’ll never know…)

        Oh, I most certainly do! That’s why I’m so overjoyed to consider her not only my mother but one of my best friends 🙂

  4. April 29, 2012 17:40

    I haven’t read the book but the post reminded me of Thea Astley’s wonderful ‘Coda’ and it’s memorable first line: ‘I’m losing my nouns’, she admitted. The author goes on to list the nouns ‘she’ is losing and includes ‘proper nouns’. Being of an even more ‘certain age’ than you are Whispering Gums. I can corroborate these experiences occur. To everyone, I wonder?

    • April 29, 2012 18:50

      Thanks Lianas … to me, certainly, but maybe it’s genetic!

      Oh, and yes, I love that first line of Coda.


  1. Julian Barnes and The Sense of an Ending | Sylvie's World is a Library
  2. Julian Barnes: my life as a bibliophile | Books | The Guardian « A Book of Healing: Practicing a Psychotherapy of Liberation with African-Americans

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