I hope that all is going well for you, and that you’re cozily tucked in, in the winter weather, doing whatever you like to do, read or write, or catch up on things. I always write a lot at this time of year, which is what I’m doing. I just finished a book and will start another one soon. I’m still settling in after two hectic months of travel, my dining room looked like a bomb hit it this week, with half open half unpacked suitcases. I’m finally unpacked, and writing long, long hours, catching up on work. I like staying home and writing in the cold weather, hibernating.
I seem to be the messenger of bad news these days, but I am noticing that a particularly great vintage of men and women are quietly disappearing. Some of them the people that mentored me in my youth, they were middled aged when I started writing and publishing in my teens. And now, in their 90’s, they seem to be disappearing one by one. As I’ve mentioned before, my agent of 40 years passed away in May, Mort Janklow. He was a giant in the literary world, probably one of the most famous literary agents who ever lived. The lessons he taught me, as a person and a writer were invaluable. He was unique in the world, and very famous in his own right. He was the agent for some of the biggest fiction and non-fiction writers, and almost every president who ever wrote a book in his lifetime. He was 92 when he died in May. And two weeks ago, Barbara Walters who was also a dear friend passed away at 93. Another giant, one of the most important journalists who ever lived, who changed the face of TV news and became the first female TV news anchor. And the subjects of her interviews were actors, movie stars, writers, presidents, kings and queens. She was legendary, an incredible woman. I admired her immeasurably, and loved her dearly, as I did my agent. And this weekend, my German brother in law, Carl Hahn, passed away at 96. He was one of the most famous industrialists in Europe, and maybe the world. He was the head of Volkswagen world wide for 39 years, and helped to make it famous worldwide. he was always travelling to underdeveloped countries to help them grow their economies. He founded hospitals, museums, he travelled the globe, and was an extraordinary person. Along with mourning them, and missing them, I am fascinated by these people and always have been. Carl looked 20 or 30 years younger than his age, ramrod straight, until a year or two ago, he bicycled 30 or 40 miles a day just as exercise.
I am fascinated by these people and their common traits. They’re not of my generation, they are of my parents’ and in some cases even my grandparents’ generation. And I am struck by the traits they had in common. They had incredible energy and drive, were forward thinking. They built things, they had a vision of a better world in future and acted on it. They were youthful, and timeless. While others slowly collapsed and complained about their aches and pains, they kept on tirelessly, full of energy, still changing the world into their 80’s and 90’s. they didn’t have time to get old, so they never did.. Barbara retired well into her 80’s, Mort never did by 92. Carl retired from Volkswagen at whatever age he was required to, and went on working just as hard for world causes and serving on boards around the world until his death at 96. What was it about that generation that gave them such incredible strength and energy, and such a profound desire to improve the world. Barbara changed the face of TV news, and changed it for all the women who came after her. Carl left underdeveloped countries a better place. I once had dinner with Jimmy Carter, long after he was President, and he had that same kind of drive and energy and vision, and was doing many charitable things in Africa, and he was of that same vintage.
It seems to me that that generation was dedicated to building a better world. They changed things, they invented things, they opened doors to new vistas and new horizons. My own generation wanted to have fun, They wanted to go to parties, have sexual freedom, have a good time and make big money. They wanted things to be easy. And the youngest generations now, the counter and cancel culture want to cancel what has existed until now, but they have not figured out yet what to replace it with. They want to tear down, whereas the much earlier generations wanted to build. Maybe living through the depression and a world war made them stronger and more creative and more determined to build things. The people I have met in their 90’s now are a remarkable group of people. I met a female documentary maker and writer a few years ago, an amazing woman who had survived 5 concentration camps in her teens, and the deaths of her entire family during the war. She had more energy than anyone in the room, had just won an award for one of her films, and was celebrating a new book, and she died last year at 90. That age group, and those who have survived that long are an extraordinary group of people. I am in awe of their accomplishments and feel like a sloth compared to them.
I think some of the answers are to build and not tear down just for the sake of tearing down, to improve the world for others, to have dreams and follow them, to have purpose and perseverance, and to change what is wrong in our society. It’s a tall order. And as one by one that generation quietly leave us now, they leave us their legacy , to leave the world a better place one day because of them. I am sad to see them go, we still need them and their positive energy, and I am in awe of what they leave us to do. They serve as a powerful example, their shoes are hard to fill, and they leave us to carry the torch into the future. May we prove to be equal to the tasks they left us. They are inspiring us to be better people. I hope I will be equal to a fraction of what they have done one day.
We have a lot of work ahead of us!!! Have a great week!!!