Sunday, June 26, 2016

I Crave Stories

Update: After ranting that I couldn't find a book, today I picked up one that satisfied my story-tooth. The Pull of the Moon by Elizabeth Berg is a brilliantly conceived, beautifully written story about a woman's journey, from what happens to us at 12 to the transformation that comes with our 50s. Nan is none of us, yet my guess is that each of us will find something to identify with as she goes walkabout from her marriage. She doesn't leave her husband as much as she goes looking for her lost self.

Talking about being part of the "bridge" generation, she says, "We flowered in the sixties, but the spirit of the fifties was deep in us." As Nan travels about, she connects with strangers who help her find pieces of herself that got lost along the way.

One of the heart-breaking stories she hears comes from an 86-year-old farm woman who shows her poems her husband wrote to her. After he died, she found them buried in a drawer, apparently not thinking they were actually good enough to give to her.

I take back my rant ... apparently I haven't been looking in the right places.

PS ... if you look at the reviews, they are pretty split. Some people think Nan was a spoiled, self-involved whiner others think she was a courageous explorer into her own self. Which side you come down on might be related to age and generation.

My morning rant: (which, thankfully, has nothing to do with politics): I can’t find a book!

Of course, that’s a galloping overstatement. I can find a book, millions of books, millions of books coming out every year. 
What I’m having a really hard time finding is a well-written, intelligently researched, fresh and interesting story relevant to my life.

There is a rumor going around that the baby boomers are a significant segment of our population, and they are now in the process of retiring. Unless I’m mistaken, somewhere close to half of that group is women.

My rant seems to be related to the common wisdom in the book world:
- women buy most books
- women under sixty buy most of the books sold to women
- women readers don’t want heroines who are over 50, therefore, publishable books need to focus on issues common to readers under 50, or better still 40 … or 30 … or, hey, young adult fiction is HOT!

My problem:
- I am a reader, a life-long, books-were-my-best-friends-and-taught-me-most-of-what-I-know reader.
- I am a mid-spectrum reader, to the right of romance novels and fluffy mysteries; to the left of literary explorations of the rarefied machinations of the universe in story-less prose.
- I am 70-years-old … and, believe it or not, I’m still engaged with life, interested in new adventures, and would love to read stories about what other people my age are doing with their lives.
- I am no longer interested in the sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll lives of infantile souls; or the tribulations of the young-way-too-tired married, the bored-into-cheating married, or the vengeful divorced; or thriller stories of macho, know-it-all heroes of any gender; or disaster stories focused on the fifty ways to destroy the planet; or fantasies about the superpowers of vampires, werewolves or a teenage spider.
Question: Do women over 60 stop buying books because we suddenly aren’t interested in reading anymore … or because there are so few books that offer us anything relevant to our lives? Movies seem to be able to successfully tell interesting stories about older people. Why can’t books?
What I crave: Stories. Stories of triumph over the conditions that are part of life … death, disease, disappointment, delusion. "Coming of age” stories where the “age" is the incredible approach of the end of life, what I now think is far more interesting and challenging than merely “growing up."

I want to read stories about women over 50 living interesting lives that include service, adventure, romance, humor, both success and failure, grace under pressure, wisdom, learning and contribution to the world.

I want to read stories about women having conversations with each other about something other than their "boyfriends" (or "girlfriends") … and, if at all possible, featuring women who would never even use either term.

I want to read stories about women who are wrong, misguided, misinformed, maybe even temporarily stupid but not irredeemably fucked up or mean and bitter because they're old.

I want to read a story about my friend Maggi who died recently. I couldn’t be there at the end, but I would bet money she had a bright scarf wrapped round her head, four giant rings on her fingers, and cracked a joke on her way out. 

I want stories that help me know how to dance the end of my life like Maggi did. If you know of such a book, please let me know.

End of rant: I’m now going to go write a book I would want to read.


  1. I agree with you. Since I mostly read before I go to bed, I go for the light mystery, or recently, a mystery series that has to do with genealogy. Since I have been checking into my biological history. I do hear that the wild steamy love stories are selling like hot cakes to the older age also... but that is not something I care to read about or imagine some one participating in calisthenics in bed or any other place. I don't particularly want to delve deep into the WHY's in my life, I have lived it am comfortable with where I am. Sometimes I do get an AH Ha moment, a moment of clarity. But the past is what it is... Don't care for flying animals or settling on planets either, nor space ships and lots of noise at a movie. My thoughts when I read your thoughts. I am happy with my years and enjoying them... as you are doing also. enjoy the writing process.

  2. Vivian ... thanks for your comment. Isn't it lovely to be so comfortable and engaged at this stage of life. Miss you!!!

  3. You know we have wildly different reading tastes, but...

    The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life of Frances Perkins, FDR'S Secretary of Labor and His Moral Conscience

    This is one of my favorite books. True, it's not a novel. But this woman was an amazing person and did amazing things at a time when women were expected to shut up and sit quietly.

    Other than that, you know I love all things Jame Lee Burke, and the Walt Longmire stories are great fare (yes, READING, not watching :-) )

    But I don't think you meant you're craving ANY stories, you would like characters who might actually mirror some of your life's journey.

    Go fish.

    Women aging with adventure, as we've often discussed, are not at the top of the market. (Oh, Miss Marple, of course.)

    Maybe we have to weave in the parts of the characters we like into our story?

    Chat Wednesday.

  4. Pat ... thanks for the recommendation ... sounds great even if it is non-fiction.

    I think the book world is missing a niche ... might be a small one, but I think it's worth looking at.

  5. Love this post Jouce. And I too agree - I don't read as much now because I am bred with same old same old I can't relate to what's out there books!

    So excited to read what you are going to write!

    1. Hola! I'll keep you posted. The book is coming along and I'm going to need a beta reader ... interested?

  6. Write a book for us - and don't forget to add some sex! We may be old, but we're not dead yet.

  7. ReAnn ... I may need some coaching on that part but you're definitely one of my role models!!!