There’s no way I can lose my keys now,’ my son was saying to me the other day. ‘I have a system. I haven’t lost a key for four years.’ Youthful hubris? Wild-eyed utopianism? Or was he just having a junior moment? Perhaps this shows up the intellectual differences between us: he, in his relative innocence, believes he has finally solved the eternally vexed issue of how to hold on to your keys, whereas all I have to look forward to is an afterlife in which every missing key is finally returned to me.
Of course, I feel rather like that writer who said that when he had been growing up he was supposed to respect his elders, and now that he was older he found he was supposed to respect the youth. Maybe it’s not too late to get that respect though. Susan Neiman has come up with some powerful philosophical arguments for not over-idealising youth culture.
I confess I looked up her age: she is fifty-nine. Her analysis suggests that that is the first thing you should do with any book – check out how old the author is. It makes a difference. She argues that the sixteen to twenty-six slot, in particular, is not everything