Skip to content

What’s the best novel ever written by an 85-year-old?

I recently read A Legacy of Spies by John Le CarrĂ©. It was pretty good. Which is impressive given that the author wrote it when he was 85! OK, I’m not saying it was as good as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but I still liked it. It was done well, and if it featured some of Le CarrĂ©’s more annoying tics, it also featured some excellent examples of his interweaving of thought and action, which I’d call “cinematic” except that in some ways it’s the opposite of cinematic in that so much is happening inside the character’s head.

Anyway, here’s my real question. What’s the best novel every written by an 85-year-old? Old authors can write excellent essays—they’re practiced in putting words together, and writing an essay is like noodling around on the piano for an experienced musician: they know how to structure their ideas and make them go down smoothly. But a novel, that’s another story. Updike’s novels were disintegrating for decades even while he kept up the quality of his stories and essays—and he barely lived to 70. Who else is or was still writing solid, readable novels at 85?

Leave a Reply