This week I received six novels for which I paid one cent each. Of course I also paid the postage ($3.99), and the novels all look much used and written upon and eaten over. All were on Amazon, on the “other listings” section, the prices beginning at one cent and going upwards. Only one was on Kindle. They arrived one by one from bookstores all over the country like gifts from unknown lovers. Book lovers, that is.
I decided a month ago to write some sort of article about the paucity of novels about old ladies, my genre. I can think of quite a few books about old geezers, written and applauded around the world. J. M. Coetzee, Wallace Stegner, John Updike come to mind, probably because they are on my bookshelves. As for women, only Olive Kitteridge is tucked in with the S’s. Books by women of all ages, of course. About? Not really.
When I Googled “books for older women,” I found lists of publications discussing the possibility of sex after sixty, beauty aids one can find in one’s refrigerator, and one entitled Get Your Balance Back with Yoga. No novels except a few tepid romances for women of a certain old age. I know they are tepid because they are rated as warm, not hot, certainly not burning.
Then I Googled “Novels about older women” and found a list of books from a number of countries, most published before ebooks existed. All but one were written by women. All for sale for one cent. I ordered the six or so that sounded good, even though I didn’t recognize most the authors. The copyright dates stretched from the l960’s to 2006. For many of those years I was changing diapers and going to PTA and not thinking about getting old, just getting through the day.
I’ve read three of my new/old books and have scanned the rest. I love them. Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel, May Sarton’s As We are Now, Penelope Lively’s How It All Began are piled on the Find a Good Place for These Books corner of my desk. The other pile is teetering on the bedside table waiting for this evening when I turn on the bed light and choose one of them.
What I’ve decided, with this research, is that my own three novels about old ladies are important contributions to the genre Literature for Older Women. I can only hope that one way or another women who are wondering what’s on the path ahead will find them and accept their messages of courageous exploration—on Amazon, on Kindle, or on the one-cent table of some internet book store.