Charles McGrath writes, “Who isn’t a critic? We are born picky and judgmental, and as we get older we only become more opinionated and more sure of ourselves.” Is that true? I think I’m less sure of myself now than I ever have been.
Or maybe that’s not quite right. My tastes are perhaps more limited, even fixed, than they once were — I am more likely to say, of a book or a movie or a record that people are praising, “Maybe it’s as good as they say, but I pass” — and, moreover, to feel comfortable with that decision and untempted to revisit it. But I’m not inclined to think that my tastes have become increasingly precise, ever more sophisticated; rather, I’m simply aware of the passage of time, the shrinking of the years in front of me, and am less prone to devotes lots of time and energy to things that (experience teaches me) I am not likely to find rewarding.
Might I miss some cool stuff? Indeed. And not just “might” but “will.” But here’s the thing about being fifty-six: I know I’ve missed lots of cool stuff. And I’m still here, and not obviously worse off for it. That makes it easier to go with my gut — to grab what looks good and to ignore what doesn’t — but not because I’m smarter than I used to be or more discerning. It’s just a matter of reckoning with the brevity of life. All in all, I’d rather read Jane Austen again.
That said, the next book on my list is the first book of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan tetralogy. So I’m not only re-reading the faves.