Suddenly and unprecedently, there are writers in the US displaying peak form in their fifties, sixties and even seventies. This really isn’t supposed to happen: the American novelist’s destiny is to burn himself out young like a sports star or drown his talent in booze. Books about oldies are consequently rare – even the émigré Henry James, who remained productive up to sixty, preferred virginal innocents.
So the durability of the current batch of over-fifties represents a new phenomenon: two or three generations, from Richard Ford to Saul Bellow, via Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, Philip Roth and John Updike, writing from and about maturity. At the elite level, American fiction now has the autumnal feel of