Stone of stumbling and rock of offense (wordweaverlynn) wrote,
Stone of stumbling and rock of offense

Sometimes What You Need Is Sylvia Townsend Warner

Walking past a used-book store today, I spotted _The Element of Lavishness_ on the sale shelves. It's the 40-year correspondence between Sylvia Townsend Warner and William Maxwell, who was her editor at the New Yorker for much of that time.

Yes, I'm trying to downsize my library. Yes, it's a hardback. Yes, it was absolutely the book I needed.

STW is a writer of wit, grace, and secret power, like a figure skater making Olympic leaps look effortless. She's sharply observant and profoundly humane. It's been years since I read her books, but I'm planning to read them all again.

Along with the sheer delight of her style, I'm finding another value in these letters. They cover the decades from her 40s until her death well into her 80s, and I'm starting to look for lanterns to light my path through middle age and beyond. Not that I need advice on how to age; time is taking good care of that. But dealing with aging is something else, and Warner discusses it frankly, along with her writing, her travels, and her cats.

I'll be re-reading May Sarton's novels and journals and poetry, too. She writes explicitly about aging as well.

Is there something about lesbian or bisexual writers that makes them more willing to talk about these things? Or do they speak about the changes in words that make sense to me, rather than straight women lamenting that men don't look at them any more? Or have I just not read the right books?

Anybody else who is writing with honesty and vigor about aging?

A few quotes from Sylvia Townsend Warner:

“One doesn’t become a witch to run around being helpful either…. It’s to escape all that – to have a life of one’s own, not an existence doled out to you by others, charitable refuse of their thoughts, so many ounces of stale bread of life a day.”

“Young people are careless of their virginity; one day they may have it and the next not.”

“There is a moral, of course, and like all morals it is better not pursued.”

“She was heavier than he expected - women always are.”

“The fatal law of gravity; when you are down, everything falls down on you.”

“It is best as one grows older to strip oneself of possessions, to shed oneself downward like a tree, to be almost wholly earth before one dies.”

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Tags: aging, quotations, quotes, sylvia townsend warner
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