From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Alford (Big Kiss
) recognizes that the elderly have been through more in their lives than the rest of us, and figures it might be a good idea to talk to some of them and see if they have any meaningful advice to impart. This plan sets off a prolonged meditation: what is wisdom, anyway? Some of his interview subjects are famous, like playwright Edward Albee or literary critic Harold Bloom—but it's the less recognized figures who consistently provide Alford with the most evocative source material, like the retired schoolteacher who lost her husband, her home and all her possessions in Hurricane Katrina but refuses to feel sorry for herself. The search is not all rosy: shortly after , Alford's interview with his stepfather, he loses his sobriety and the author becomes a sideline observer as his mother initiates divorce proceedings and moves into a retirement home. Such scenarios depart from the laugh-out-loud stories for which Alford is best known, but there are still enough moments of rich humor, like the guided tour of Sylvia Miles's cluttered apartment, for longtime fans of Alford. (Jan. 2)
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"A bit David Sedaris, a bit Charles Grodin" (Cleveland Plain Dealer
), with a little Studs Terkel and Mitch Albom (Tuesdays with Morrie
) thrown in for good measure, Alford, when he's on, has all the critics in stitches. They extol his keen wit and ability to keep a somber subject lighthearted. Drawing on such a wide range of source material has its benefits and drawbacks: Alford covers a lot of ground, but the result is, for some reviewers, a narrative that's a little too slack and uninspired. Whether it's his treatment of his mother's marriage or a rumination on his aging cat's wisdom, some things just seem out of place. Then again, maybe when we're older, we'll come back to How to Live
, and it will all make perfect sense.Copyright 2009 Bookmarks Publishing LLC