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A golden age for artists

Swift: “the real heir to David Bowie”. Amy Sussman/Getty

We are in a golden age for artists, says Susie Goldsbrough in The Times – by the “longevity measure”, at least. Elton John, 76, just headlined Glastonbury; 85-year-old Ridley Scott is still producing blockbusters; Ian McEwan’s 16th novel is newly out in paperback. It makes me wonder who I’ll still be in thrall to in 30 years’ time. “Long-life artists” play an important role: they are the companions we’ll keep forever, “cleverer than friends, more durable than love”. And while obviously it’s still too early to know, I’m worried the current crop won’t have any creative staying power. Some are already struggling to live up to their early promise: Arlo Parks’s second album was “dull”; Sally Rooney’s latest feels “like a novel in search of a novel”.

My suspicion is that it’s harder to “keep creating” today, in a cultural atmosphere “so weighted towards the interior and the truthful”. Everyone has a personal story now, so “what does an artist do once they’ve told theirs”? Happily, there are exceptions, who don’t confine themselves to their own experience. Greta Gerwig has gone from directing a coming-of-age indie (Lady Bird), to a big-budget literary adaptation (Little Women), to a $1bn blockbuster (Barbie). Taylor Swift, with her constant reinventions, is “the real heir to David Bowie”. The Irish novelist Sebastian Barry, who has just notched his fifth Booker Prize nomination, has covered everything from his own family history to illness, war, and America. The key, surely, is being “as interested, perhaps more so, in what is outside you as what is inside you”.