Near the end of Tender Is the Night, F Scott Fitzgerald writes that 28-year-old Nicole Diver ‘was enough ridden by the current youth worship, the moving pictures with their myriad faces of girl-children, blandly represented as carrying on the work and wisdom of the world, to feel a jealousy of youth’. Although Robert Harrison does not offer this example in Juvenescence, it marks the pivot that interests him: the changes over the last century to our cultural value systems concerning youth and age. In particular, I suspect, he would register Fitzgerald’s scepticism regarding the wisdom of youth, for the difference between the wisdom of age and the energy of youth is one of Harrison’s abiding concerns in this meditation on age.
Harrison argues that in appreciable ways we have gone beyond being obsessed with achieving a more youthful appearance and are actually becoming younger. Longevity is extending, true, but ‘the difference lies not merely in our enhanced diets, health benefits, and reduced exposure to the elements but in a wholesale biocultural