Which may explain why most of the writers on her list are just barely showing their grey.
One of them -- Anthony Burgess -- was a boyish 39 when he made his fiction debut. (Oh, okay, he was 45 when he hit the literary jackpot with "Clockwork Orange," but that's still younger than all but two of our U.S. presidents).
The older I get, I guess, the higher the age a late bloomer needs to be.
|Laura Ingalls Wilder|
So, yes, for me the last two on Temple's list definitely quality: Donald Ray Pollack was 55 when he debuted with a short story collection and 58 when he published his first novel last year. And, Laura Ingalls Wilder -- the only silver-haired among the lot -- was without a doubt a late bloomer. She published her first novel -- "Little House in the Book Woods" when she was 64.
Temple says she was inspired to create her list of literary not-so-late bloomers after she discovered a "cool website dedicated to the discussion of writers who published their first major work at age 40 or later." The website, called Bloom, is indeed cool, a place "where you'll encounter the work and lives of authors ... who bloomed in their own good time."
But consider this: That site was founded by Sonya Chung, a novelist who once told an interviewer that she considered herself a late bloomer because she only began writing in "her late twenties."
Chung wanted writers over 40 to get some good stuff, too. In her first column introducing the Post-40 series, Chung said she appreciated Malcolm Gladwell's distinctions among "late bloomers, late starters and late-dicoverereds," in his popular New Yorker article on "Late Bloomers," but admited her own bias was toward late starters -- "people who have lived a whole life, or two, or three before seriously devoting themselves to write a book."
* Spencer Reece who had been submitting his poetry for 13 years and was rejected some 300 times over before both a publisher and The New Yorker recognized his work when he was...40.
* Walker Percy who published "The Moviegoer," at 44
* Novelists David Abrams and Anna Keesey who were 49 when they published their first novels
* Mary Costello who finally found success with her short stories in her mid-40s
* Short story writer Susan Starr Richards who published her first collection at 49
* Isak Dinesen whose literary star started to ascend at 50, just as her physical deterioration accelerated
* David Orozco whose "debut" collection at 52 was 16 years in the making
To be fair, the Post-40 series hasn't completely overlooked writers who have achieved success in their late fifties, sixties and seventies. The fact that one of them didn't actually live long enough to see that success was a bit disconcerting. But let's not quibble. We late late bloomers will take all the role models we can get:
* Mary Wesley who found success publishing young adult fiction in her 70s
* Harriet Doerr who won the National Book Award for her first novel when she was 74
And I'll give this to Chung: She was on to something when she deliberately left out the word "late" and "older" in her "Post-40" title: "Late relative to what and according to whose definition of early or on-time?" she asked.
Indeed. Will I still think of Laura Ingalls Wilder as a late bloomer when I am in my seventies and eighties?
Perhaps not. Clearly, late is in the age of the beholder.
10 Great LIterary Late Bloomers