30 Dec
Posted in: Books
By    Comments Off on Alive, Alive Oh!

Alive, Alive Oh!

Today is my birthday.

I’m going to spend some time speaking Italian with my Dearly Beloved Tutor, Benedetto, and of course I’ll sit, and snuggle the cats, and eat chocolate cake with vanilla AND coffee ice cream, plus other similar celebratory activities….including lounging on the couch and reading for hours at a time…oh the luxurious sweetness of that!

In honor of the day I’ll mostly be reading: Alive, Alive, Oh!: And Other Things That Matter, by Diana Athill, her most recent book, written at the age of 97!

Here’s a sample:
“About halfway through my seventies I stopped thinking of myself as a sexual being, and after a short period of shock at that fact, found it very restful. To be able to like, even to love, a man without wanting to go to bed with him turned out to be a new sort of freedom. This realization was extraordinary. It was like coming out onto a high plateau, into clean, fresh air, far above the ant-like bustle going on down below me. It was almost like becoming another sort of creature.

“Well, I had in fact become another sort of creature: I had become an Old Woman! And to my surprise, I don’t regret it. In the course of the ninety-seven years through which I have lived, I have collected many more images of beautiful places and things than I realized, and now it seems as though they are jostling to float into my mind.

“For example: because (I suppose) it will soon be May, I have just caught the scent of bluebells in my room.  Once a booksellers’ conference took me and some colleagues to Yorkshire, near Fountain’s Abbey. An energetic colleague said to me, ‘Let’s get the hotel to call us at 5 o’clock tomorrow morning, so that we can nip out and have a good look at the Abbey before the day beings.’

“Never an early riser, I was at first appalled, then felt ashamed of myself and agreed, so we did it, and the Abbey was indeed very lovely, standing there in the silent and delicate mistiness of an early morning in May; but even more magical was the nearby woodland sloping down to the river, carpeted with bluebells which were responding to the rising sun by releasing a great wave of scent — a wave more powerful than I’d known their flowers could possibly produce. The little new leaves on the branches above them were that first green, which looks as though made by light, and which will be gone in a day or two, and blackbirds had just started to sing.

“Those few minutes in the wood were so piercingly beautiful that I ought not to be surprised at their still being with me.”



I am 65 today. Not exactly an Old Woman, but not that far from it. I take heart in reading these beautiful, clear, funny, honest, smart sentences….written by a woman who began her writing career at the age of 70!

I’m not done yet. In fact, I’m just gettin’ started.  

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