Essay: SECOND ACTS IN AMERICAN LIVES

ALONG in his 40s, the American male often plunges into strange fits of black depression. He wakes in a sweat at 4 a.m. He stares at the dim ceiling. His once bright ambitions creep past like beaten soldiers. Face it: he will never run the company, write the novel, make the million. He feels fat and futile; his kids are taller than he is.

He ponders some escape. After all, Sherwood Anderson was 36 when he quit running an Ohio paint factory and started writing fiction. Gauguin was a sometime Parisian broker of 43 when...

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