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Comment: The item shows wear from consistent use, but it remains in good condition and works perfectly. All pages and cover are intact (including the dust cover, if applicable). Spine may show signs of wear. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting. May include "From the library of" labels.
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Somewhere Towards the End: A Memoir Paperback – December 7, 2009

3.9 out of 5 stars 81 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When it comes to facing old age, writes Athill, there are no lessons to be learnt, no discoveries to be made, no solutions to offer. As the acclaimed British memoirist (who wrote about her experiences as a book editor in Stet) pushes past 90, she realizes that there is not much on record on falling away and resolves to set down some of her observations. She is bluntly unconcerned with conventional wisdom, unapologetically recounting her extended role as the Other Woman in her companion's prior marriage—then explaining how he didn't move in with her until after they'd stopped having sex, which is why it was no big deal for her to invite his next mistress to move in with them to save expenses. She is equally frank in discussing how, as their life turns sad and boring, she copes with his declining health, just as she cared for her mother in her final years. Firmly resolute that no afterlife awaits her, Athill finds just enough optimism in this world to keep her reflections from slipping into morbidity—she may not offer much comfort, but it's a bracing read. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From The New Yorker

Athill spent more than fifty years editing writers including Philip Roth, Norman Mailer, Jean Rhys, and V. S. Naipaul. In later life, she "had the luck to discover" that she could write; her book-world memoir, "Stet," appeared when she was eighty-three. Now, at ninety-one, she offers a spry dispatch on the condition of being elderly, having realized that copious literature describes the experience of youth, "but there is not much on record about falling away." Her perspective is both remorseless and tender as she considers the waning of her sexual desire, the sharpening of her atheist resolve, her increasing preference for nonfiction rather than novels ("I no longer feel the need to ponder human relationships . . . but I do still want to be fed facts"), and the truth that, even in her advanced state, much of her time is taken up with caring for those still older. The achievement of Athill's work is its refusal to reduce the specificities of her captivating life to homilies about wisdom.
Copyright ©2008 Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 182 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 Reprint edition (December 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393338002
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393338003
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #133,001 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I want to make it clear that this memoir is not only for those euphemistically known as "seniors" (an appellation I despise). Although it was written by a woman now 91, and it is about aging, it is not just about that; it also journeys through reading, writing, religion (or the lack thereof), children (or the absence thereof), death, sex, luck and friendship.

For Diana Athill's contemporaries, the book must be immediately relevant. For me, almost 30 years younger (and thus, according to her, "still within hailing distance of middle age"), it is a reassuring dispatch from my all-too-near future. I can't speak for younger generations, but I think that they too will find more meaning and sustenance in this slim (183-page) volume than in a hundred self-help books.

Athill was for 50 years a brilliant London book editor; among her writers were Jean Rhys, V.S. Naipaul and Margaret Atwood. She wrote about all this in STET, an amazing memoir of her publishing days that she produced at 80. Although she had written other memoirs and a novel before that, her discovery of herself as a full-fledged writer came relatively late. Athill is emphatic that the ability to "make things" --- art, music, books --- is a crucial factor in having a lively and resilient old age, yet for most of her long career (she retired at 75), she seems to have been content to let others do the making, while she remained a behind-the-scenes figure.

Athill, in fact, was brought up with a very British horror of attention-seeking or boastfulness: "YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY PEBBLE ON THE BEACH might have been inscribed above the nursery door," she writes, "and I know several people...
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Format: Hardcover
This is a book I will read again. And again. I found in it such a quiet reflection on life, beautifully put. This woman is a gifted writer, and I appreciate her experience with old age with death on the horizon, the end of life. I am in that place of view now, and this is a book to help me with my final part of life. There are several other authors who have spoken for me me in the way that Athill has - Joan Didion and May Sarton. It is a wonderful and strengthening experience to see my innermost feelings put into words and concepts. It makes me stronger, and it makes me more clear about life and about myself.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When was the last time you encountered someone new and the word 'wisdom' popped into your head? Not very often lately? Me neither. Until last week. I read right through this book, "Somewhere Towards the End," as soon as I finished reading right through Diana Athill's earlier book, "Stet."

I bought "Stet" because it was the memoir of a superb book editor, a job I had done once myself, though not superbly. She had been one of the founders of a small, elite British house and worked with Mailer, Vidal, and Updike to name but three of their stable.

I bought "Somewhere Towards The End" because I was wondering what it is like to be old. I knew about arthritis, wrinkles and a sense of irrelevance. Who doesn't? I had been wondering if there was anything more appealing to be said for it. Diana Athill was close to 90 when she wrote this book, and the answer she personifies is 'Yes, there is.'

You see from the first page that she herself is a wonderful writer, a very unusual writer, and she must have been hell on wheels as an editor. (Not in the way you may be thinking though; Gordon Liss she is not. Her insights are penetrating, but her touch is very light., just short of self- effacing.) She embodies more than a few paradoxes. She she did not bring the kind of clear, rational insights to her own personal and financial life that she invested in her authors' books. She is quite frank about it, but never self-pitying. Fortunately for the reader, she made interesting mistakes with interesting people. One of the things that charmed and fascinated me is how lucidly and candidly she writes about her misadventures.
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Format: Hardcover
I bought this book because I am in my 71st year and find that people are reluctant to talk about death or impending death. The author tackled the subject head on with clarity, humilty, humour and wisdom gained over years of facing her everyday life with honesty. Talking about how to deal with the changes that old age can bring and how they can be managed on a day to day basis without too much resistance and a deal of acceptance was very helpful. It is well worth reading and left me with a feeling of peace and the occasional chuckle.
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Format: Hardcover
Perhaps it is unwarranted, but when an elderly, intellectual person reviews a life of over ninety-plus years, the expectations are for some profound insights on how to live, on how to come to grips with the nearing end. In this rather whimsical and rambling effort, the author touches briefly on what seems to be almost random aspects of her life. While the book is not superficial, she does not linger long on her subjects. Adding to the vagueness is the lack of concern in locating her story in terms of places, dates, ages, names, or chronology.

For the author, crossing the age of seventy was the most significant milestone in her life, because that is the point at which she "ceased to be a sexual being." Interestingly, she had almost a predisposition for long-running affairs with black men, highly cultured and not necessarily single. She readily admits they were affairs that satisfied needs and status, more than being deep commitments. As sex regrettably ebbed in her life, "other things became more interesting." She points to a better understanding of her atheism, as an example, and how it fits in a Christian society. Unsurprisingly, as a long time editor at a publishing house, she retains a deep interest in books, although novels, with their focus on relationships and escapism, have become less appealing.

The author was born in a well-to-do English family and comments on the advantages of money, good health, and a good education in dealing with old age. She does not pretend to have much to say for those not so advantaged. She has a level of comfort, psychological and otherwise, in her life that she is hopeful will be sustaining for her remaining time.
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