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Early Bird: A Memoir of Premature Retirement Hardcover – April 26, 2005

3.9 out of 5 stars 64 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

What happens when an able-bodied 28-year-old decides to "retire" in a Florida senior community? It may seem like the setup for a Carl Hiaasen novel, but it's actually the project Rothman thinks up after losing his television job. Following through with his plan, Rothman comically probes Boca Raton's Century Village. He infiltrates the social hierarchy of the "pool group," eats dinner at the local early-bird specials and joins a shuffleboard club. He captures these experiences in short, humorous chapters, consistently detailing his own physical and mental failings compared to the seniors he meets. The book's laconic and self-deprecating tone brings to mind Rothman's former boss, David Letterman, but unfortunately, Rothman doesn't balance the two traits as well as Letterman. During a Thanksgiving dinner in the community, when Rothman competes with his neighbor Sylvie's son for Sylvie's attention and says, "I'm committing Grand Theft Mother, directly in front of him. I don't feel bad about it. Why should I?" his humor can feel uncomfortably callous. Much of Rothman's angst stems from his idleness, but it's hard to muster sympathy when that situation is self-imposed. This undermines what is otherwise a funny and engaging memoir of a quarter-life crisis. Agent, David McCormick. (May)
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"[EARLY BIRD] is a hilarious reminder that everyone was young once...everyone except Rodney." -- Jon Stewart

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st edition (April 26, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743242173
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743242172
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,784,815 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Since I live in South Florida, the mecca for East Coast senior retirees, and work in an office building directly across the street from a huge Century Village senior citizen complex, I have always wondered what it would be like to live the South Florida retirement lifestyle. Rodney Rothman, who prematurely retired at the ripe old age of 28 after losing his job as a television show writer, moved into a Boca Raton Century Village retirement condo, determined to try out retirement forty years early.

We meet Rothman's roommate, a shy retired piano teacher whose only companions are her condo-prohibited pets. We learn about his new friend Amy, a raunchy 93-year-old former stand-up comedian. We watch him play bad golf with Artie, a former heroin dealer who is uncertain about what to do with the rest of his life. Then add anecdotes about his shuffleboard, club, and pool buddies, and Rothman paints a fascinating picture of what it's like to grow old. He also throws in details about his own personal concerns, such as finding a Nice Jewish Girl, convincing his family and friends that he's not crazy for what he's doing, and deciding how and when he will reenter the work force.

Rothman did his homework, having read up on the physical, mental, and social concerns of the elderly. As he compares the differences and similarities between the lives of the young and old, he provides an interesting interpretive twist from the refreshingly witty point of view of a twenty-something. In many ways, he claims, the elderly are a lot like their teenage counterparts. They form the same cliques and have the same concerns about fitting in. Old men, who left their immature behavior behind when they married, regain it at this stage of their lives and have primarily women on their minds.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book should not be taken too seriously. It is laugh out loud funny at times, but mostly it seems pretty depressing. Not so much at the author's portrayal of the seniors, but at his lack of ability to successfully get the elderly to talk about meaningful things. He claims that they do not offer him any great wisdom of life, but whenever he does find himself in moments of seriousness, such as when he finally finds out how his roommate's spouse passed away, he is too uncomfortable to pursue them further. Alas, the lack of depth he finds in seniors is not a reflection of those whom he meets, but of himself. But then again, what would you expect from a comedy writer who must constantly attempt to discover the absurd? It is a shame that Mr. Rothman did not have the courage to set aside his silliness at times; it would have given this work a whole new dimension.
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Format: Hardcover
This is light stuff to the point of being cotton candy, full of air and artificial color. What could have been an opportunity to explore the hidden life of the elderly in their own segregated communities turns into the story of an ineffectual nerd "author," in the self-centered mode of George Kastanza of Seinfeld fame, forever thinking about how he's perceived by the "old men" and "old ladies," and about his pathetic inability to get laid. Even a self-indulgent person like Rothman, however, after being surrounded by what mortality is all about, becomes somewhat empathic and breaks out of his snarky cocoon to discover the pains and memories of his "old lady" roommate. I can't say he learns much about the elderly beyond the couple of books he reads about growing old. He could have just stayed home in Hollywood and read the books. Did he not learn much about the people he talked to because they are cliquish or because he's too self-centered to find the right questions to ask? Seems like in the long run he came to Florida looking for fatuous jokes and hilarious stories to bring back to his friends. He cracks a few jokes and tells some stories here, which aren't that funny. Old people can be mean, they can be crazy, they can be vulgar, and they can have physical problems. Hello Mr. Rothman: So can "young" people. So can you. To be fair, Rothman does try to help some people he meets, but isn't too successful at it. Old people don't cotton to change, and he gives up his efforts fairly easily. In the end, I thought this book was about as funny as a bad David Letterman routine, for which Rothman was an ex-writer. From his performance here, I can see why he's an "ex."
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Format: Paperback
This is yet another book that was piled deep on my "to read" shelf. EARLY BIRD is a memoir of sorts, kind of in the David Sedaris vein, about Rodney Rothman, a writer for UNDECLARED and LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN who moves to a retirement community in Florida at the age of 28. The book never makes clear that this is a social / literary experience, with Rothman sometimes hovering on the outskirts and sometimes fully participating. There is some brief history of why Florida became a destination for retirees, but the narrative is brief (I could have read a whole book on that). Rothman becomes roommates with a shut-in and her pets, a situation that could warrant its own book, but is only mentioned in small clumps in the narrative. There are some essays about older people that he meets that read like detached essays, and there are participatory stories involving Rothman playing shuffle board, canasta and riding along with a police division made of retirees. Because of this stop-and-go reporting the book never flows and you wonder what Sedaris would have done with six months in a retirement community (ala NAKED). Much like Archie Bunker's description of a cross dresser, it has too much of one (style) and not enough of the other. On a side note, apparently it was made into a 30-minute pilot with a great cast (Polly Bergen, Robert Culp, Bill Macy etc) and directed by Apatow-auteur Paul Feig. THAT I would have liked to have seen.
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