Generations of Winter was originally conceived as a mini-series for PBS, but when the project was shelved, Vassily Aksynov’s publisher convinced him to make a novel out of the project. The novel was published in the US in 1994, and 10 years later, in late 2004, a mini-series based on the novel made it to Russian television where it was a resounding success. Considering the subject matter, the success of Generations of Winter in Russia must represent a difficult acknowledgement of the horrors of Soviet history which remain unmarked by monuments and for which the government has never officially apologized. Aksyonov is writing from firsthand knowledge when his characters are hauled off in the middle of the night by NKVD agents. Aksyonov’s mother, Evgenia Ginzburg, was sent to the camps when he was five, and he joined her in exile in Siberia when he was 16. He followed in his mother’s footsteps as a writer as well. Ginzburg is well-known for her memoirs of the gulag and exile, Journey into the Whirlwind and Within the Whirlwind. Many reviewers have described Generations of Winter as a War and Peace for the 20th century. Aksyonov’s book is a sprawling, multi-generational tale set between the years 1925 and 1945. It centers on the Gradov family, lively members of the Moscow elite whose lives are shattered by purges, torture and war. Generations of Winter is a historical novel at heart. It’s pages are populated by real historical figures, most notably Stalin, who mingle with the fictional Gradovs. Though the book’s subject matter is difficult, the Gradov’s shine, and the narrative is breathtaking in its scope.
We live in a performative age. This is an era when restaurants have had to adopt formal camera policies, because so many diners persist in taking pictures of their meals on their iPhones to post online. On any given day, my Facebook and Twitter feeds are filled with self-portraits: This is my new haircut. This is my new shirt. This is the face I make when I wish to convey that I am wry and self-aware, and this is my confident, I-can-take-on-the-world grin. Or details of lives, broadcast to the world: This is my dinner. This is my cat. This is how I feel at this moment. Look, I made a pie! Etc. “All the world’s a stage,” Shakespeare wrote, “and all the men and women merely players,” but it seems to me that only the first half of this statement remains true. The conventions of social media encourage us to see ourselves not as players in a larger drama, per se, but as the stars of our own individual reality shows.
There are moments when I love social media. There are other moments, actually a lot of moments, when I question how much of my finite life I want to spend on the Internet. In the plus column, I’ve met some wonderful people via social media, including a few who I’d count among my dearest friends. It’s an easy way to keep in touch with my siblings, who are as phone shy as I am and live 3,000 miles away. There are people who use social media in interesting ways. The conversations are occasionally good.
But I’ve been a sporadic and somewhat ambivalent participant of late. Long periods of time go by when I post almost nothing of my own and only respond to other people’s updates, because what it comes down to, I think, is that either you have an instinct for broadcasting your life on the Internet, or you don’t. It’s not that I find my life uninteresting, it’s just that I’m not at all sure why anyone else would be interested, aside from my mom. I keep a sporadic diary, because I want to remember my life, but I have a hard time imagining why I’d want to display that life for public consumption. I deeply value my privacy.
Mary MacLane, on the other hand, would have been a natural. Mary MacLane’s enthusiasm for broadcasting her life to the world was unparalleled in her time. Her staggeringly self-obsessed first book, I Await The Devil’s Coming, was published in 1902, and, as I read it, I found myself thinking that this was a woman who was temperamentally perfectly suited to the social media age. And then, a week later, I read Emily Gould’s excellent introduction to Melville House’s new e-book edition of I, Mary MacLane, the book that followed a few years later, and Gould said more or less the same thing. So much for my original insight.
But in any case, these are the facts: Mary MacLane’s main interest was herself, she found it necessary to exhaustively explore her own personality, and it wasn’t enough to write to herself in the pages of a diary. She required an audience. The audience, it turns out, was waiting for her. I Await The Devil’s Coming, originally published under the more sedate title The Story of Mary MacLane, sold 100,000 copies in its first month.
I Await The Devil’s Coming is a peculiar and fascinating piece of work. At the time of writing, Mary MacLane was an intellectually frustrated, profoundly restless 19 year old living a middle-class life with her family in Butte, Montana. Little was expected of her. The days passed slowly. High school was finished, and college didn’t seem to be part of anyone’s plan. She did a little light sewing, she wrote in her notebook, she read, she went on long walks. She was unbearably lonely.
She seems to have been unable to relate to anyone in her family, or even in Butte, and felt like a foreigner among them. She alludes to a miserable, loveless childhood. She has one friend and one friend only, referred to throughout as the Anemone Lady. She is in love with the Anemone Lady, but the Anemone Lady has left town. “My life,” MacLane wrote, “is a desert — a desert, but the thin, clinging perfume of the blue anemone reaches to its utter confines. And nothing in the desert is the same because of that perfume. Years will not fade the blue of the anemone, nor a thousand bitter winds blow away the rare fragrance.”
The Anemone Lady, she wrote, offered her the first and only glimpse of love she’d experienced in her life. She fantasized about meeting and marrying the Devil, although it isn’t entirely clear to me whether she actually believed the Devil exists, or if this was more of a vague desire to be rescued combined with an instinct for shock value. Regardless, the overall impression is of a young woman driven half-mad by loneliness and boredom. “My life lies fallow,” she wrote. “I am tired of sitting here.” MacLane called this book “the record of three months of Nothingness.”
Those three months are very much like the three months that preceded them, to be sure, and the three that followed them — and like all the months that have come and gone with me, since time was. There is never anything different; nothing ever happens.
In that nothingness, she wandered the plains outside Butte, and her descriptions of that spare landscape contain some of the most beautiful language in the book. When she could focus on subjects other than herself, she was capable of sublime prose.
It was rare, though, for her to focus on subjects other than herself. Mary MacLane’s primary interest was Mary MacLane. But she was extremely self-aware, and there are moments when she seems to recognize the corrosive potential of her self-absorption: “If I were not so unceasingly engrossed with my sense of misery and loneliness,” she wrote, “my mind would produce beautiful, wonderful logic. I am a genius — a genius — a genius.” It’s a startlingly candid admission: If I weren’t so engrossed with myself, I could accomplish greater things.
It’s a slippery thing, genius. The above quote isn’t an anomaly. In I Await The Devil’s Coming, MacLane informs us that she’s a genius again and again, until the question becomes unavoidable: okay, sure, but a genius at what? MacLane was a good but not transcendently gifted writer. (There’s something underdeveloped about her writing. There are glimpses, here and there, of what she might have been capable of if she’d been more interested in writing about subjects other than herself; if perhaps she’d lived a little longer, if some editor had perhaps taken an interest and redirected her talents; if she hadn’t been quite so cripplingly self-obsessed.) Her genius didn’t lie in any other obviously identifiable fields: she wasn’t developing new mathematical theorums, composing symphonies, or elucidating groundbreaking philosophical ideas. She was prone to curious leaps of logic: “A genius who does not know that he is a genius is no genius,” she wrote.
Just after I read I Await The Devil’s Coming, I read Savage Beauty, Nancy Milford’s exquisite biography of the American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. There are certain similarities between the two women. They were more or less contemporaries — MacLane was born in 1881, Millay in 1892 — and neither had much interest in living within the constraints of societal convention. At 18 and 19, Millay, too, was writing about an imaginary consort in the pages of her diary, and living a life shot through with desperation in Camden, Maine: “Sweep the floor,” Millay wrote at 19, “and sweep it again tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and the day after that and every day of your life; — if not that floor, why then — some other floor.” This is MacLane’s territory, these endless interchangeable days, this narrow life.
Both Millay and MacLane were sprung into new lives by works written at 19. Millay wrote a magnificent long poem, “Renascence,” that propelled her to Vassar and then a new life in New York, while the wild success of I Await The Devil’s Coming gained MacLane the fame she craved and enough money to escape Butte. Both women were bisexual, took many lovers, passed through Greenwich Village a few years apart, and lived bold and unconventional lives.
It’s important to note that MacLane made no claim to literary genius, but reading Savage Beauty and I Await The Devil’s Coming back to back throws one of the difficulties of MacLane’s work into sharp relief: one can’t help but notice that while MacLane was busy declaring herself a genius, certain other people were busy actually being geniuses without spending too much time announcing it.
But as the nature of MacLane’s “genius” is gradually revealed, there’s something deeply poignant about it. MacLane was excruciatingly sensitive. “I am not good,” she wrote. “I am not virtuous. I am not sympathetic. I am not generous. I am merely and above all a creature of intense passionate feeling. I feel — everything. It is my genius. It burns me like fire.”
That year, she stood watching the sunset in the landscape outside Butte and let her mind wander to a daydream of standing by the sea: “I stood on the shore and looked at the rocks. My heart contracted with the pain that beautiful things bring.” Against the beauty and pain and loneliness of her life, of the world, she had no armor. She barely had skin.
She was driven by a fervent longing. She wrote, “My wailing, waiting soul burns with but one desire: to be loved — oh, to be loved.”
MacLane was condemned and widely mocked for her immodesty, her self-stated lack of morals, and her open self-absorption, but I Await The Devil’s Coming turned her into an overnight sensation. It turned out there was a vast audience waiting for confessional writing, before confessional writing existed.
MacLane specifically wanted fame. She longed to be seen. As Emily Gould notes, she would have been a Tumblr and YouTube star. I’ll take this a step further and suggest that MacLane was someone who might have benefited immensely from the existence of the Internet, a person who might have been shaped, for the better, by the exposure to a wider world that the Internet can provide to isolated people. MacLane was cursed with a certain narrowness of imagination: she could summon up an imaginary Devil in perfect detail — the look in his eye, his tone of voice, the cut of his suit — but at 19 she couldn’t conceive that in all of this vast world, very little of which she’d actually seen, there could possibly be anyone remotely like her.
In a 1986 article about confessional writing in The New York Times, Patricia Hampl made reference to MacLane’s “repellent self-absorption.” I find myself repelled too, but also I am fascinated. MacLane was an original. I Await The Devil’s Coming is frequently irritating, but it’s also audacious. This was an era when women were expected to be modest to the point of invisibility, to all but disappear into the wallpaper, and MacLane refused. The new Melville House edition of her first book has gained considerable traction, including a recent long excerpt on The New Yorker website. I find myself wondering if what seemed repellently self-involved when Hampl wrote that article in 1986 seems merely mildly eccentric in the social media age. We expect self-involvement in the social media age; we are, after all, publishing photographs of what we had for breakfast. The only eccentricity is in openly declaring one’s own genius.
“But I would give up this genius eagerly,” MacLane wrote, “gladly — at once and forever — for one dear, bright day free from loneliness.”
Of all of the wonderfully insightful Charlie Rose segments on books and writing, the one that sticks with me the most is the contentious 1996 debate between David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Franzen, and Mark Leyner about the current state of literature in America. Wallace was on the heels of Infinite Jest and Franzen was building up to his perfected synergy of the Midwestern America family after two well-received warmups that underperformed commercially. Leyner had a novel and a collection to his name, both of which were highly satirical while maintaining an aura of symbiotic self-consciousness. Wallace was on the cusp of canonization, a distinction Franzen would reach with his 2001 novel, The Corrections; Leyner continued to produce a steady stream of fictional and nonfictional oddities, like his collaboration with Dr. Billy Goldberg, Why Do Men Have Nipples?. And so while Franzen and Wallace need no introduction, Mark Leyner, a man who has spent a career experimenting with style, structure, and genre, seems comparatively under-loved. As Leyner himself bitterly points out in his latest novel, Gone with the Mind, he’s not included in Philip Roth’s “formidable postwar writers” in Roth’s 2014 interview The New York Times. As it happens, Gone with the Mind, is both the perfect introduction to Leyner’s work and demonstrative of the reasons it has languished in relative obscurity.
Many readers feel a certain trepidation when they read fiction infused with factual anecdotes from an author’s life; these anxieties amplify when the writer literally injects his or her namesake into their fiction. This has been the central device of Mark Leyner’s writing throughout his 25-year career. His 1992 debut novel, Et Tu Babe, follows the life of the famous novelist, Mark Leyner. His sophomore romp, The Tetherballs of Bougainville depicts a lauded teenage screenwriter with the same name. For a writer who has made a career out of wry quips and flares of reality mixed with the imagined, Gone with the Mind is a culmination of these tendencies, more a gesticulation of satiric irony than cohesive narrative. Like all of Leyner’s categorical fiction, his latest book isn’t entirely upfront with its distinctions, either as a thinly veiled fiction or an elaborate farce.
In his latest, Mark Leyner the character is the guest speaker at the “Nonfiction at the Food Court Reading Series.” The event is coordinated by his mother, who provides a lengthy introduction for her son at the beginning of the novel. He is there to read from his autobiography — a project that began as a first-person video game wherein the objective is to return to his mother’s womb — to a crowd of two: a Panda Express and Sbarro employee. The narrative is, ultimately, a novel-length speech. While at times it is focused, it frequently rambles on the composition of the fake book inside the metafiction. My experience reading the novel spawned an array of adjectives, often in the span of a few seconds. Absurd, juvenile, sophisticated, selfless, masturbatory, profound. That’s Mark Leyner, and he knows it:
We (the Imaginary Intern and I) used to talk a lot about an olfactory art, some kind of postlinguistic, pheromonal medium that would be infinitely more nuanced than language (and without language’s representational deficiencies), a purely molecular syntax freed from all the associative patterns and encoded, ideological biases of language, that could produce the revelatory sensations of art by exciting chemosensory neurons instead of the ‘mind,’ that could jettison all the incumbent imperial narratives and finally get to something really nonfictional.
Authors frequently insert themselves into their own novels, but they work in ways that keep the end product undeniably fiction. Philip Roth embodied his child self in The Plot Against America, but the premise of Charles Lindbergh defeating Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential election is purely fantasy. Ben Marcus rewound to his childhood in Notable American Women, which centers around behavioral modification and mind control. Other examples stray closer to the real. Jonathan Safran Foer (real) traveled to the Ukraine alongside American pop culture enthusiast Alexander Perchov (make-believe) in Everything is Illuminated. The voice, age, and background of Foer in his 2002 novel are largely synchronized with the author himself. The Pale King turned David Foster Wallace writer to David Wallace, one-time IRS agent. Douglas Coupland took the rare route of becoming a villain in JPod.
Perhaps the most common insertion tactic for fiction writers is to portray fiction writers. Paul Auster the detective has his identity stolen by Daniel Quinn, the fictitious mystery writer and protagonist of The New York Trilogy. Joshua Cohen is hired by tech billionaire Joshua Cohen to ghostwrite his autobiography in Book of Numbers by Joshua Cohen. Martin Amis is hired to rewrite a fledgling film in Money. After spending decades toiling with his mammoth fantasy series, The Dark Tower, one cannot fault Stephen King for actually acknowledging himself as the writer of epic series. King’s character literally embodies the struggles he had with bringing the series to an end, and Roland Deschain hypnotizes him in Song of Susannah in order to move the story forward. Leyner mirrors King in terms of breaking the proverbial fourth wall, as Leyner’s character often addresses the audience about his difficulties with finishing his autobiography:
If I were asked by some young, sensitive writer just starting out, what key lesson I’ve learned in life (which I’ll never be), I’d probably say that there is no aperture of egress, however tiny and exquisitely sensitive, that can’t be turned into an aperture of ingress.
If these writers-as-characters serve as a means for propelling their respective narratives forward, Mark Leyner’s layered self in Gone with the Mind is there for the sake of holding back; the work is an attempt to reinvent the conventions of novel structure. Written in a stream-of-consciousness style reminiscent of Dave Eggers’s A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Gone with the Mind plays with the characteristics of a novel in much of the same way that Eggers does with memoir form in his 2001 breakout. Where they differ is in cadence; rhythmically, AHWOSG is very much focused on the delivery of story via written exposition, while Leyner’s clear intent is orality. Eggers dressed up his postmodern memoir with fiction; Leyner dances around truths in a novel. Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be? likewise commented on the divide between fiction and autobiography. Calling it “a work of constructed reality,” Heti’s hybrid book shares a trait with Leyner’s. She built “A Novel from Life” from the framework of conversations with close friends. Leyner substitutes close friends with mainly his mother, and a smattering of other friends and relatives as he sorts through, and attempts to make sense of, his own life experience:
And it’s only much later in life that we try to retrospectively map out, to plot all the traumas and the triumphs, the lucky breaks and lost opportunities, all the decisions and their ramifying consequences. And I tend to believe that this inclination to look back on one’s life and superimpose a teleological narrative of cause and effect is probably itself a symptom of incipient dementia, caused by some prion disease or the clumping of beta-amyloid plaques.
Leyner, in an effort to subvert the reader from digesting the tale like a conventional novel, introduces the Imaginary Intern, a quasi-intuitive, philosophical entity surmised from a craquelure in the food court bathroom tiles. As bizarre as it sounds, the Imaginary Intern serves as the vessel — a foil for Mark Leyner the character. One can see the Imaginary Intern as the motivations behind writers including themselves in their fictions. In essence, it is the trial and error of entering and wading through the falsehoods of fiction as a living, breathing person in an effort to create a fresh version of oneself:
And this was something the Imaginary Intern and I used to always talk about trying to do in Gone with the Mind, trying somehow to express the chord of how one feels at a single given moment, in this transient, phantom world, standing in the center of a food court at a mall with your mom, but in the arpeggiated exploded diagram of an autobiography.
There comes a point in the novel when readers are likely to go, Okay, yeah, but what’s the point? For me, it was during one of the many dialogues between Mark and the Imaginary Intern.
Cheekily, Leyner lets his mother anticipate and defend him from his reader’s complaints. “I’d say, that’s the great thing about literature. Everyone’s entitled to his or her own interpretation. That’s what I’d say to that.”
In that great Charlie Rose segment, much of the conversation is about books competing with visual media. Leyner, Wallace, and Franzen discuss their concerns about the crowded entertainment market vying for our time. At one point Leyner says, “I have to somehow devote my work to people who may not be great readers anymore.” This statement resonates even more 20 years later, with the advent of social media, the rise of video games, Netflix, YouTube channels, Twitter.
If Leyner’s goals were honest, Gone with the Mind is the product of two decades of searching for the correct formula for the not-great readers, somehow producing one of the most compulsively readable literary novels I’ve read in years. I read it cover to cover in one sitting. This is Mark Leyner commenting on fiction in a way that only he can; he admirably dissects the problems with modern readers while simultaneously building a bridge to new readership. Within the many digressions and the back-and-forth with the Imaginary Intern, Leyner sporadically muses on the human condition and effectively broadens the scope of his narrative:
And I still believe that there are two basic kinds of people—people who cultivate the narcissistic delusion of being watched at all times through the viewfinder of a camera, and people who cultivate the paranoid delusion of being watched at all times through the high-powered optics of a sniper’s rifle, and I think I fall—and have always fallen—into this latter category.
Mark Leyner has spent his career carving his niche and discovering his singular voice. This declarative voice bellows from the food court podium in Gone with the Mind, demanding our undivided attention. Gone with the Mind isn’t the first novel that fictionalizes its author, and it won’t be the last, but it is absolutely one of the most inventive displays of this delicate sort of fictional act. Leyner is an oddity in American literature, a writer of virtuoso talent who chooses to spin genre-defying stories instead of capitalizing on what readers of literature have come to expect from the novel form. I concede that some readers may never get past yeah, but what’s the point? But in the author’s own words, “Even those who consider all this total bullshit have to concede that it’s upscale, artisanal bullshit of the highest order.”
A critic once wrote of John Updike’s “seeming inability to write badly.” True enough: even when Updike’s prose is at its most trivial, its most self-satisfied, its most pornographic — and his critics will point out that it is often all of these things — it is always, from a technical standpoint, immaculate.
Given how difficult writing is, and given how much Updike produced in a legendarily prolific career that spanned more than half a century, it’s worth pausing to consider the remarkable fact of Updike’s talent. In terms of constructing beautiful sentences, Updike had few peers. Not just in the years after World War II, or in the 20th century, but in literary history. At a time when writing is spoken of with tedious frequency as a “craft,” Updike, in his metronomic virtuosity, is uniquely deserving of the term.
And yet, almost five years after his death, Updike’s critics often seem to outweigh his admirers, and their main complaint is that same virtuosity. Of course, Updike was subject to charges of favoring style over substance from the moment he was considered a major writer, but it’s the late-Boomer and early Gen-Xer audience that Updike really annoys. In a footnote to his new translation of Karl Kraus’s essays, Jonathan Franzen — the closest contemporary literature comes to a figure of Updikean stature — writes:
Updike was exquisitely preoccupied with his own literary digestive process, and his virtuosity in clocking and rendering the minutiae of daily life was undeniably unparalleled, but his lack of interest in the bigger postwar, postmodern, socio-technological picture marked him, in my mind, as a classic self-absorbed sixties-style narcissist.
Similarly, in a 1998 essay the late David Foster Wallace declared himself “one of the very few actual subforty Updike fans,” and then proceeded to savage Updike, concluding the essay by calling him an “asshole.” And the critic James Wood contended that Updike’s prose “confronts one with the question of whether beauty is enough.”
The Library of America has just released its two-volume edition of Updike’s Collected Stories (nicely edited by Christopher Carduff), and while I doubt it will do much to improve the author’s sagging stock, at nearly 2,000 pages, comprising 186 stories published between 1953 and 2009, it offers ample opportunity for pondering Wood’s question, and the larger problem of John Updike: he was incapable of writing badly, but was he capable of writing, for lack of a better word, importantly?
Having read nearly 200 of Updike’s stories in rapid succession, I’m more sympathetic to the critics’ point of view than I had been. While not willing to go as far as Franzen, who argues that Updike was “wasting” his “tremendous, Nabokov-level talent,” I was surprised by how many of Updike’s stories impressed me while I read them, and how few left an impression. One can open the Collected Stories to almost any page and find a surprising metaphor, a lovely description, or a wry morsel of irony without remembering much of anything about story that contains it. The stories that I’d already read and admired, the ones widely regarded as Updike’s best — “Pigeon Feathers,” “A Sense of Shelter,” “In Football Season,” “The Persistence of Desire,” “The Happiest I’ve Been,” and, of course, “A&P,” for decades a stalwart of high school curricula — now strike me as a largely comprehensive list, in little need of emendation in light of Updike’s larger corpus.
The curious paradox of Updike is that he made art into a craft, but only rarely did he transcend craft to achieve art. In a sense, then, the answer to Wood’s question is that beauty is not enough, at least not the beauty of finely tuned prose and vivid images that was Updike’s specialty. Art requires the wedding of aesthetics and morals, and the case might be made that the morals are more important; few people would call Dostoyevsky a beautiful writer, but even fewer would contest that he was a great artist.
Still, Updike was capable of art, and if it is disheartening to see how much of that art is concentrated in the early years of his career, when his fiction focused on the still-vital memories of his Pennsylvania childhood — the caricature Updike, the one whose writing is full of explicit sex and overwrought descriptions of the female form, doesn’t show up until the early 1970s, and he is indeed trying — those earliest stories still possess a bracing sublimity. (Not that he never produced strong works later in his career; the stories tracing the collapse of the marriage of Richard and Joan Maple — in my opinion, Updike’s greatest work, stronger even than the Rabbit novels — continued well into his later years, but unfortunately, only the first of them appears in the Collected Stories. According to a textual note, the Library of America plans to publish the Maples stories, and the ones about Henry Bech, in a separate collection, an understandable decision that nevertheless weakens the volumes under consideration.)
To my mind, “The Happiest I’ve Been” is the finest of them all. The narrator, John Nordholm, (previously seen in “Friends From Philadelphia”) plans to drive with his high school friend Neil Hovey to Chicago, where he will propose to the girl he loves before returning to school in the east for spring semester. After saying goodbye to John’s parents, Neil reveals that he’d like to go to a New Year’s party in Olinger (the milieu of Updike’s early Pennsylvania stories) before they get underway. They go to the party, and from there to another girl’s house, where they pass the late hours. The night is evocatively drawn, but the crux of the story comes when John and Neil finally leave for Chicago at dawn. On the way to the interstate, they pass John’s house, which they left hours earlier, and Updike captures the oddity of this moment perfectly: “With a .22 I could have had a pane of my parents’ bedroom window, and they were dreaming I was in Indiana.”
They drive on towards Pittsburgh, and here, I’ll defer to Updike:
There were many reasons for my feeling so happy. We were on our way. I had seen a dawn…Ahead, a girl waited who, if I asked, would marry me, but first there was a vast trip: many hours and towns interceded between me and that encounter. There was the quality of the ten a.m. sunlight as it existed in the air ahead of the windshield, filtered by the thin overcast, blessing irresponsibility — you felt you could slice forever through such a cool pure element — and springing, by implying how high these hills had become, a widespreading pride: Pennsylvania, your state — as if you had made your life.
For anyone who has been young in America — for anyone who has been young — this passage needs no explication. It is beautiful, and it is certainly enough.