An eclectic collection of short fiction and poetry explores the challenges faced by men as they age.
The author, now in his 80s, begins with a prologue reminding readers that â€œold age is neither a crime nor a sin,” but merely another stage of life with challenges and potential triumphs. Reflecting on the fact that more and more people are living to advanced ages, Bryant offers his work as a report on the road conditions from one who has traveled it, to those coming up behind him. Although his book has an explicitly didactic purpose, this does not mean that the author’s stories and poems are in any way moralizing–nor do they offer easy solutions to the problems of old age such as aimlessness, solitude, pain or the possibility of an afterlife. However it’s true that Bryant’s intentions are not purely literary. Although told with unusual stylistic concision and vigor–only rarely marred by clichÃ©d expressions such as references to wind â€œsighing through the pine needles on a mountain slope” or â€œa spirited game of touch football”–these fictions do not aspire to aesthetic independence, but rather aim at maximum clarity in representing common experiences. In the process, they reveal the author’s deeply humane insight into a wide variety of human types, ranging from retired businessmen, to minor poets and academics, to American Indians before the arrival of European settlers. Although incidental to his main aims, Bryant’s use of the variety of American geography and history also showcases his deep knowledge of these subjects, thus providing another opportunity for readers to learn from his book. What one story’s narrator says about an old farmhand could equally be applied to the author of this collection–â€œWe should treasure people like Stuart Wellborn, people who know and love the land and who can tell its story.”
Crisp, quietly learned storytelling offers subtle insights into the experience of aging.