In the last century, great writers achieved their greatness far earlier than they do now. Granted, they died earlier too, of fashionable afflictions such as bacterial infections, addiction, suicide, and the spleen; but it wasn’t uncommon for writers to be well on the road to superstardom and inclusion in the grand literary canon by the end of their twenties. So why are our great writers now so old, when they do great things?
James Joyce had written the genesis of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by the time he was 22, and finished Dubliners before he hit 30. Franz Kafka was dead at 40, leaving behind a considerable body of work. Ernest Hemingway published The Sun Also Rises at the age of 27.
In other fields, successful artists are much younger. Popular musicians generally achieve career highs in their 20s, or earlier, as accomplished at their craft as…
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