Sunday, November 18, 2007
So, anyway. For days in the run up to my 40th birthday I was nagged by a feeling to re-read The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie. Why, I don’t know. But I was in need of a book and I’ve learned to trust those impulses so I gave in. It’s a great book, well worth a re-visit, but I didn’t know why until I got to Chapter 13. And there it was. The reason to re-read it. Lying there like a newborn, expecting nothing but your admiration. The epigraph. Every man over forty is a scoundrel - George Bernard Shaw. Which made me feel great. Am I a scoundrel? No need to ask. GBS has decided for me. So I bathe in the warmth of that pronouncement for a happy hour or so, but then doubt sets in. Why did he say that? Where did he write it? I don’t know much Shaw beyond the names of some his plays and, after all, there are so many books and I have so few eyes. But it turns out that the phrase comes from Maxims for Revolutionists (1903) and is intended to make young revolutionaries distrust those who are into their fifth decade. Not a scoundrel because they will seduce your sister but because they are so steeped in the status quo. But because I'm keen to extract a grain of comfort from it I can claim that I'm still dangerous to someone. So, all in all, bitter-sweet really. Just like turning 40.