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Old Age: A Beginner's Guide Hardcover – April 26, 2016
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A New York Times Bestseller
A New York Times Editors' Choice
A #1 Washington Post Bestseller
“A superb new book . . . A generational cri de coeur. . . . Mr. Kinsley possesses what is probably the most envied journalistic voice of his generation: skeptical, friendly, possessed of an almost Martian intelligence.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“Wickedly funny. . . . Especially poignant. . . . Among all the books published in recent years about old age and dying, it would be hard to find one that is more fun to read than Old Age.” —Reeve Lindbergh, The Washington Post
“Kinsley brings wisdom and artfully suppressed anger, wistful humor, well-pitched prose, and the bite of the thinker against the pretenses of the world. . . . Old Age is not a little book about economics or Parkinson’s disease, but it is a big little book about what happens when we begin to think beyond who has won the race.” —Peter Stothard, The Wall Street Journal
“If aging is an opponent, I can’t think of anyone better suited to take it on than Michael Kinsley. His prodigious wit and intellect cut straight through to the realities—positive and negative—of growing older. By turns funny and rueful, but always real, this book is a must-read for newcomers to the world of old age.” —Michael J. Fox
“Hilarious. . . . Witty. . . . If it’s possible for a book about illness and death to be delightful, this one fills the bill.” —Phillip Lopate, The New York Times Book Review
"Old Age is irreverent, wise, and laugh-out-loud funny about living long enough for your organs to start to betray you. Count on Michael Kinsley to write the book about life you didn't know you needed." —Atul Gawande
“Michael Kinsley, a favorite around here, has written a smart, funny, and profound little memoir.” —Pamela Paul, The New York Times Book Review
“A wise and edgy guide to old age. . . . A humorous but penetrating look at the issues the baby-boomer generation should consider as it confronts life’s last phase.” —The Seattle Times
“A wise and funny journey that manages to make mortality itself an energizing subject.” —Money.com
About the Author
Michael Kinsley is a columnist at Vanity Fair, a contributor to The New Yorker, and the founder of Slate. He has served as the editor of The New Republic and Harper's, the managing editor of The Washington Monthly, and the American editor of The Economist. He lives in Washington, DC.
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It's not that this personal content is uninteresting -- Kinsley recounts his experience with tests to measure his cognitive abilities, as he discourses on the importance of progressing through old age while hanging onto one's marbles (i.e. that longevity alone isn't the measure of a "good" old age), discourses on what it's like to live with Parkinson's, and to endure brain surgery that has helped to stall the progress of many symptoms. It's just that this wasn't what the book seemed to promise or what I had anticipated. Sure, from time to time, Kinsley backs off from the personal to make more general observations -- most particularly in the final segment, when he discourses on the question of building up a reputation that will endure post mortem -- but those segments also tend to be shorter and to feel more perfunctory.
Ultimately, I came away from these feeling unmoved and unenlightened. There's nothing terribly fresh here, and while Kinsley's writing is crisp and vivid, without insights that make me sit up and take notice, I ended up shrugging my shoulders. There's an odd and quirky proposal to solve the country's fiscal problems bolted on to the end that comes out of nowhere, but aside from that....
If you're looking for something to read about mortality, for my money you're better off reading "Nothing to Be Frightened Of" by Julian Barnes. Beautiful prose, and real thought has gone into the ideas it contains. This is obviously equally personal, but far more disjointed.
I hate to put it this way, but in a usually light-hearted manner, this book is Kinsley's "up-yours" to the disorder. As in, "You might cripple me in my final years, but I look at how well I can still communicate and evoke laughter." In this understated manner, Kinsley is inspiring in his courage.
The book is small in size and short in pages. It's a "pocket book" in a very real sense. As I recall, it is about 8 chapters, or essays including a final one of 1 page. They need not be read chronologically. My favorite was #5 where he provided interesting information about the cognitive difficulties of the disorder. I hadn't realized it harmed the executive functioning of the brain along with the brain's muscular control areas. As he points out, many people are not aware of this aspect of the disorder.
Obviously this is a book that deals with the subject matter of Parkinson's, dementia, aging and death in a sensitive fashion. I would certainly recommend it for those who are seeing degeneration in their loved ones. I think there is also great value in it for those facing these problems too. I can imagine that it would be a comfort for all such persons.
Michael Kinsley had me at "hello"...I loved his observations of older people. Being a boomer myself I am trying to learn what IS typical of old folks and try NOT be like them, hehe. I don't want to stop strangers doing their laps in a swimming pool, to tell them how old I am, and what I used to do for a living. The author is witty and self deprecating. I liked his assessment of the problem of having to give up driving - and I really thought highly of him for doing it for his wife. I appreciated the info about Parkinson's, found it all interesting.
But then...then Kinsley went on to ramble about the national debt and Americans becoming Islam-Nazis. I do not share his political opinions and I bought his book to read about old age and NOT to find out what Mr. Kinsley thinks about inheritance tax. He is certainly entitled to an opinion on that, I just think I was duped to pay for reading it. Overall I enjoyed reading the first half of the book tremendously...but the book is not that long, so - I enjoyed it for just a little while.