Three Score and Ten: Charting lives through literature

Often you’ll hear people talk of a book as being “a book for an age” for the way it describes a certain era’s fads and fashions so clearly you feel as if you were living there yourself, for its sharp social commentary or just simply for the way it perfectly fits with a period of time. But how about finding a book for your own age – where the protagonist (or one character) is the same age as you, if not quite your exact literary equivalent then your literary peer at least.

Three Score and Ten is an intriguing take on a literary blog, charting quite literally a life through literature. The idea is simple enough; for every year of a near average lifespan (if you were wondering where the name originated from), quotes from two fictional characters – one male, one female – are picked out to illustrate a particular age, the physical markings or psychological whirrings that accompany a stage in the journey of an individual. Even those events we could hardly know or remember anything about – conception and birth – are covered, as well as that unchartered territory, the final destination – death itself.

The man on this literary mission is Wayne Gooderham, whose ideas for Three Score and Ten and general fascination with the relationship between ages and literature can be perused in this article for The Guardian. As well as being a fun project and the product of what some might call a slight obsession, the aims of Three Score and Ten are more far-reaching – in his pursuit, Wayne is reading every book he selects quotes from in their entirety, stretching his own literary comfort zone in the process. Readers of the blog are also encouraged to read something they perhaps wouldn’t usually choose; if they’ve just turned a certain age and want to chart their own year with that of a character, or simply just like a particular quote, then the information is all there to allow them to do so.

What I like about Three Score and Ten, aside from its interactive potential, is that it taps into the notion that we can use literature to identify with ourselves and others. In my opinion, books are a great tool for doing this. And to match yourself with a fictional character can be informative, even if you find your own trials and tribulations don’t quite measure up with that of the literary figure you share your age with. Also, it’s quite interesting to discover whether certain characters that stand as timeless representations of a particular period in life really are just that, or whether they change with time and new perspectives as we do ourselves.

As my 24th birthday is approaching, I think I will definitely have to make an appointment to read The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford – one of the latest additions to the anthology – in the next twelve months. Three Score and Ten is updated with quotes for a new age on a weekly basis.

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