A moving portrait of a father and daughter relationship and a case for late-stage creativity from Emily Urquhart, the bestselling author of Beyond the Pale: Folklore, Family, and the Mystery of Our Hidden Genes.
“The fundamental misunderstanding of our time is that we belong to one age group or another. We all grow old. There is no us and them. There was only ever an us.” — from The Age of Creativity
It has long been thought that artistic output declines in old age. When Emily Urquhart and her family celebrated the eightieth birthday of her father, the illustrious painter Tony Urquhart, she found it remarkable that, although his pace had slowed, he was continuing his daily art practice of drawing, painting, and constructing large-scale sculptures, and was even innovating his style. Was he defying the odds, or is it possible that some assumptions about the elderly are flat-out wrong? After all, many well-known visual artists completed their best work in the last decade of their lives, Turner, Monet, and Cézanne among them. With the eye of a memoirist and the curiosity of a journalist, Urquhart began an investigation into late-stage creativity, asking: Is it possible that our best work is ahead of us? Is there an expiry date on creativity? Do we ever really know when we’ve done anything for the last time?
The Age of Creativity is a graceful, intimate blend of research on ageing and creativity, including on progressive senior-led organizations, such as a home for elderly theatre performers and a gallery in New York City that only represents artists over sixty, and her experiences living and travelling with her father. Emily Urquhart reveals how creative work, both amateur and professional, sustains people in the third act of their lives, and tells a new story about the possibilities of elder-hood.
EMILY URQUHART is a National Magazine Award–winning writer and has a doctorate in folklore from Memorial University of Newfoundland. Her first book, Beyond the Pale: Folklore, Family, and the Mystery of Our Hidden Genes, was a Maclean’s bestseller, a finalist for the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction, and a Globe and Mail Best Book of 2015. Her freelance writing has appeared in the Toronto Star, The Walrus Magazine, Longreads, the Rumpus, and Eighteen Bridges, among other publications. She is a nonfiction editor for the New Quarterly and teaches creative nonfiction at Wilfrid Laurier University. She lives in Kitchener, Ontario, with her husband and their two children.
PRAISE FOR EMILY URQUHART AND THE AGE OF CREATIVITY:
“This is a gift of a book, an ode to late style, a daughter’s devotional, a fascinating dive into art history, but above all a radical detonation of accepted notions of ageing and art. Emily Urquhart is a curious and frank guide, who captures her subject with clear and perfect brushstrokes.” — Kyo Maclear, award-winning and bestselling author of Birds Art Life
“Wise and thoughtful, Emily Urquhart’s The Age of Creativity leads us through the landscape of imagination. The bonds of familial love, the workings of memory, the drive to create, and the process of aging are all explored with Urquhart’s trademark blending of intelligence and warmth. This important work delves into the life of an artist who surveys the transformation of his work over decades and the parallel trajectory of his life. Urquhart’s beautifully crafted memoir celebrates the longevity and the universality of the creative spirit alive in us all.” — Joanna Pocock, author of Surrender: The Call of the American West
PRAISE FOR EMILY URQUHART AND BEYOND THE PALE:
“A graceful, perceptive rendering of a misunderstood condition.” — Kirkus Reviews
“An extraordinary mix of memoir and manifesto.” — Maclean’s
“Folklorist Urquhart writes poetically and movingly about her daughter . . . readers will weep and smile.” — Booklist
“The way Urquhart struggles with these questions ultimately reflects her greatest quality as a writer. From the start she isn’t afraid to make the personal political, to delve into her particular experience while also acknowledging its limits and investigating what lies beyond them. Urquhart’s as interested in championing individuality as she is in embracing our shared humanity. But she never shies away from the fact that cherishing both can be a knotty, contradictory affair.” — Globe and Mail
“[Urquhart is] highly relatable both as a typical exhausted first-time mom and as the parent of a child with a genetic disorder, and she writes with an aching honesty.” — Toronto Star
“Beyond the Pale is an affecting memoir that is as informative as it is poetic.” — Elle Canada
“This touching and personal memoir is a must-read for parents of children with genetically inherited special needs, or anyone interested in genetics, albinism, or family trees in general.” — This Magazine
“What makes this pilgrimage fascinating, even for a non-parent unfamiliar with albinism like me, is Urquhart’s cultural reportage.” — Molly Peacock, Literary Review of Canada
“Emily Urquhart has written a courageous and ambitious book. Beyond the Pale offers an intimate account about raising a daughter with albinism, a lucid portrait of related genetic, medical, and social issues, and a disturbing reminder of the brutal violence that many people with albinism continue to face today.” — Lawrence Hill, author of The Book of Negroes and Blood: The Stuff of Life
“Beyond the Pale is a brave, thoughtful, clear, and always graceful journey through the terrifying randomness of genetics and the unexpected ways genetic anomalies can mark not just children, but all the lives around them. Best of all, it ends with a surprise — one that will interest anyone thinking of having a family.” — Ian Brown, author of The Boy in the Moon: A Father’s Search for his Disabled Son
“An investigation, inspired by a child with albinism, that delves into secret histories and fables, blooms into an adventure to Tanzania, and finally culminates in the inheritance of family stories, Beyond the Pale is an elegant, complex wonder. Urquhart carries a light into a world of shadows as she confronts ancient fears and violence on behalf of her child. In probing what makes us different from each other and what unites us — how we are forged by both our genes and our stories — she creates a legacy of belonging for her daughter and a beautiful contemporary fable for all of us.” — Maria Mutch, author of Know the Night: A Memoir of Survival in the Small Hours
“Driven by a mother’s love and a scholar’s curiosity, Beyond the Pale is a warm and unflinching memoir about hope and the resilience of the human spirit. After she learns her baby daughter has albinism, Emily Urquhart marches bravely into the heart of the dark folk tales and superstitions that have long surrounded her child’s genetic condition. Determined to mine the past and popular culture for lessons to build her daughter a better future, she takes us along on a fascinating quest, from fear and brutality in Tanzania to old family secrets in Niagara Falls. Rich with stories that both horrify and inspire, the result is a haunting and moving journey — one that says far less about genes than it does the power of people to overcome.” — Carolyn Abraham, author of The Juggler’s Children: A Journey into Family, Legend and the Genes that Bind Us
“Beyond the Pale is a powerful story about maternal love, the long reach of family and the ways — good and evil — we react to disability. And what a guide we have in Emily Urquhart — a wonderful writer who is generous, honest, and not afraid to pose the hardest questions. This book took me by the hand on the first page and never let me go.” — Katherine Ashenburg, author of The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History
“There is so much wisdom collected on these pages. Beyond the Pale is a beautiful weaving of the threads of history and lore that combine to make a family, gathered with the fierce, exhaustive love that overtakes us when we become parents. Emily Urquhart studies folklore and family ritual in academic theory until the birth of her very own snow-white child turns her investigative insights onto her own people. In her struggle to make sense of this genetic difference, she illuminates connections that are common to us all.” — Gillian Deacon, author of Naked Imperfection: A Memoir