Decrepit Lit

Lorna Scott Fox

  • Deaf Sentence by David Lodge
    Harvill Secker, 294 pp, £17.99, May 2008, ISBN 978 1 84655 167 3

Thirty years ago, the campus novels of David Lodge and Malcolm Bradbury mythologised a setting that expressed, better than any other, the cultural and ideological chaos of the 1960s and 1970s. The main characters were rarely students, but all the energy in these comedies of social transition flowed from the young: it was their politics and their sexuality that the generations above them were forced to flatter or fight, exploit or succumb to. Lodge’s middle-aged professors were shaken out of their rut by the impressive oddness of the young. But the demographic centre of gravity has moved the other way since then; most students I know already act middle-aged, while society finds itself gazing at old age with the fascinated uncertainty that was formerly reserved for the young. By next year, apparently, there will be more pensioners than children in the UK. Not long after that it will become practically impossible to die. We shall have decades in which to watch ourselves rot.

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