On This Day I Complete My 49th Year

hyacinthIt sounds more poetic when Byron says it! Also, of course, he was only 36 — and I think that was the last poem he wrote, whereas I certainly hope this is not my last post! There’s nothing particularly poetic about turning 49, in any case. It’s not a landmark age, and I’m not doing anything in particular to mark it: pizza and a beer, probably, and I made cupcakes yesterday that Maddie should be frosting as I write. Then probably last night’s episode of The Good Wife, and time to call it a night! Sounds relaxing. Sounds middle-aged. Sounds about right!

Birthdays do inevitably prompt reflection, though, more (for me, anyway) even than New Year’s Eves do. I was thinking about numbers this morning: in 2016 it will be 26 years since I moved away from Vancouver (still, in my heart, the place I consider home); 24 since I got married; 21 since I moved to Halifax and began my job at Dalhousie; 19 since I first became a mother. It’s approximately 44 years since I started reading, and since I started listening to opera — still the biggest sources of enrichment and pleasure in my life. It’s 16 years until I reach retirement age…but who’s counting, right? 🙂

Those seem like big numbers! They represent a lot of change but also a lot of continuity: as another poet said, though much is taken, much abides — and at the same time, the old order changeth, yielding place to new: it’s 9 years since I started blogging, 6 years since I joined the editorial team at Open Letters Monthly, and less than 1 year since my first review ran in the TLS. I don’t know what the next year will bring, personally or professionally — as George Eliot says, “Among all forms of mistake, prophecy is the most gratuitous” — but the older I get, the better I understand what I want and don’t want. I suppose that’s progress of a kind, if not necessarily wisdom.

It’s Easter Monday here today, which is not a holiday at Dalhousie, so my classes met as usual. There are worse ways to spend a couple of hours on my birthday than talking about Indemnity Only and Hard Times. It felt good today that I needed my notes so little — that we could keep the discussion going, and keep it interesting. File that under things I want more of in my 50th year: good books, good talk about books. I know some of that will happen here at Novel Readings, so thanks as always to everyone who reads and comments!

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10 Responses to On This Day I Complete My 49th Year

  1. Zach says:

    Aw, geez, it’s your birthday, and I didn’t even get you anything! That’s 49 years in a row now that I’ve missed it. Next year, I swear…

  2. HeWhoShallNotBeNamed says:

    Nice hyacinth! How’d ya get it?

  3. Happy birthday.

    The hyacinths are starting to come up in my yard but are not near blooming. I’m about 3 degrees of latitude further south than you.

  4. Di says:

    Oooh. Happy birthday!

  5. Scott W. says:

    Happy 49th – a rather special number here in San Francisco, so much so that our finest second-hand bookshop is choosing a big celebration for its 49th year instead of for its 50th. Such rewarding commentary here on Novel Readings – it’s worth a celebration just to know of more “good books, good talk about books” in the coming year..

  6. Bill from PA says:

    Many happy returns of the day, Rohan.

    I’m sure that this course on Bad Literature is not serving the same purpose as your planned “Pulp Fiction” course, but I’d be interested to know if you have any thoughts on it. Though, from the description, the course seems to be fashioned mainly to teach the recognition of good writing through examples of bad writing, I’ve sometimes felt that a “bad” book can be more informative than a “good” one when it comes to seeing certain issues and social trends from a different perspective.

    • Rohan Maitzen says:

      That’s actually kind of a brilliant idea for a course! I’ve usually taken the approach of teaching what I think of as the best possible examples of a genre or style, but the whole question of how we can even declare what’s good or bad seems like one that would generate a lot of really productive discussion. I have certainly found that, as you say, “bad” books can be really productive to think and write about. Sometimes you realize they seem bad only because you are applying the wrong tools, or because you don’t know what interpretive questions to ask (I feel this about some of the women’s novels from the 1920s and 1930s I read as part of my Somerville novelists research). Plus you always have to ask “bad (or good) at, or for, what?”

  7. Kerry says:

    Happy Birthday! I do so appreciate you and everything you do.

  8. Dorian says:

    Happy (belated) birthday!

    As always, your blog inspires me.

    Our hyacinths have come and gone. That’s how we roll on the 34th parallel…

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