It was for convalescent reasons that I lately undertook a resolutely up-market Mediterranean cruise, with a Greek classical bias, and since I thought of such a cruise generically as being a kind of packaged aging process, at first I decided for literary purposes to rename our ship the Geriatrica. Later I changed my mind.
It was perfectly true, though, as I had foreseen, that we formed a venerable passenger list, and sunset intimations were soon apparent. Hardly had we left the quay than a charming American senior citizen approached me as I stood at the rail, and said that since she heard I wrote books, she thought I might be amused by her favorite quotation from Groucho Marx. “It goes like this,” said she. “ ’Next to a dog, a book is a man’s best friend, but inside it’s too dark to read anyway.’ Isn’t that hilarious? I just love it.” I laughed politely, but I could not help thinking that with the passage of time the tale must have lost something in its telling.
Of course the passage of time had to be a preoccupation on board such a ship as ours. “Facing Up to Rheumatism” was one of our first educational lectures, and for myself I felt that the ancient seas through which we passed, seas of glory, seas of fate, seas where young gods fought and heroes died, were themselves allegories of mortality’s challenge. “Facing Up to Decay,” in fact, might have been a more apposite mantra. Read More