I was reading Cicero's essay on old age, De Senectute, the other day, and it's got me wondering what I will read next. Coincidentally, I'd just read Penelope Lively's The Photograph, a novel populated with folks in their late 50s, like me. But the characters, generally, are shits, and they're all Brits. Sadly, I couldn't find profoundly insightful portraits that resonated in my experience. Sad because the novel's a fine piece of writing, especially the earlier chapters' explorations of time and memory. Characters hold eventful moments in their memory, frozen in time like that still unravished bride on a side of that Grecian urn, or like that incriminating photograph. That Lively’s old folks come to tortured recriminations and dissatisfying outcomes signals something Cicero talks about. Bitter old folks get that way because they live bitter lives, not because they get old.
So right now, I’m acutely aware of how old folks get treated by their authors. I can’t really come up with a “literature of the old”, at least not in chicana chicano literature. There are a number of chicana chicano characters who are old. I enjoyed Ana Castillo's Peel My Love Like an Onion, a coming of age novel for women celebrating their cinquentañera that I strongly recommend to all thirty-ish women. Unfortunately, la Castillo disappeared her essay on the cinquentañera, so I can’t link it, but if you can find it, lucky you.
Carmen La Coja at forty has wised up to worthless men and worthwhile passions. Good for her. That is Castillo’s point about getting older. More typical is the generally unsympathetic treatment of generational change and old relatives in Sandra Cisneros' family saga, Caramelo. Growing old is hard for some people, having some nieta start dragging skeletons out of the closet seems to me elder abuse, but that's Cisneros' choice.
Ultima is old, que no, and magical? Rudolfo Anaya had a couple of oldster sidekicks helping Sonny Baca out of jams–but the old folks had to die. Don’t we all. I haven't seen the fourth Baca mystery, but it won't surprise me if Anaya conjures up the old folks' cucuys to help Sonny foil Raven.
Nor have I read Lucha Corpi's latest, and I'm reckoning Gloria Damasco's getting old, too. Now that I'm thinking of it, Luis Montez is back, in Brown On Brown. And I just got my copy.