“If I had not lived until I was 90, I would not have been able to write this book”

At his Ficlets blog, John Scalzi points to the amazing story of Harry Bernstein, “whose new novel is getting him fame and attention at the tender age of 96.”

Bernstein published his first short story in 1934. It took seven decades for his next literary achievement. His novel The Invisible Wall is about his early childhood in a poor neighborhood in an English mill town where Jews and Christians were strictly separated.

“If I had not lived until I was 90, I would not have been able to write this book,” Mr. Bernstein said. “It just could not have been done even when I was 10 years younger. I wasn’t ready.”

Scalzi comments:

This is something I think people either don’t know or will choose not to know: That every stage of life brings its own competencies and stories. This story Mr. Bernstein has written had to wait until he was ready to write it well. It took time, clearly. But apparently it was worth the wait.

This will be good news to people who in their 40s 50s or beyond are wondering if they still have relevant stories within them. It seems likely that you might.

An excellent point for prone-to-depression aging (and who isn’t aging?) writers everywhere to take to heart.

Permanent link to this article: https://edwardwillett.com/2007/04/%e2%80%9cif-i-had-not-lived-until-i-was-90-i-would-not-have-been-able-to-write-this-book%e2%80%9d/


    • Todd Wheeler on April 9, 2007 at 8:09 pm
    • Reply

    Wow. Thirty books in about 18 years. Duncan has an amazing level of productivity.

    I was trying to think of how I came across your blog (as I know I’m interested when new people show up on my own doorstep). But, I can’t remember where the link came up. I’ll just blame it on google. 😉

    • Edward Willett on April 9, 2007 at 4:10 pm
    • Reply

    I always like to point to Dave Duncan, as well, who began his fantasy-writing career in his 50s and has become (and continues to be) one of the best.

    • Todd Wheeler on April 9, 2007 at 2:19 am
    • Reply

    Nice post Mr. Willett.

    I’ll add another example: Jon Armstrong. He’s mid-40’s and had his first book released in February. After working on it for 20 years.

    Certainly gave me reason to hope.

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