Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi writes a lovely book with the help of Ronald S. Miller aimed at describing the richness available to people in their fi...moreRabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi writes a lovely book with the help of Ronald S. Miller aimed at describing the richness available to people in their final stages of adulthood. Popular culture depicts aging as a series of losses to be suffered. This book counters this view with a very detailed look at the intellectual, spiritual, emotional and social opportunities available to people in their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond.
At times, I found the book arguing a bit for an introvert's approach to life. The authors encourage meditation, journal writing, reading and other solitary tasks. I am an extrovert, and I felt as though I was being asked to do a lot of introvert work in order to claim these riches.
Yes, these introspective tasks are great for balance, but a lot of research on aging points towards social engagement as a key to quality of life. The authors do talk about the importance of intergenerational relationships, particularly the mentor relationship. So I might just be overly sensitive when reading about invitations for pursuing more alone time activities.
It's hard to summarize the book, because much of the advice has to do with developing a stance towards the world rather than adopting a certain "to do" list. It's so filled with spiritual and philosophical insight that it took me longer than usual to finish it. I fully plan on rereading it every 5 years or so as I move towards eldering. I have a feeling that I just don't "get" everything he's saying since I am only 52 right now.
In any case, I highly recommend this book for people in late midlife who want to keep developing and growing in the decades to come. The book draws on a lot of other publications on the topic and presents narratives about several older adults striving for wisdom as they age. Rabbi Schachter-Shalomi has conducted many workshops around the country for older adults seeking more information on how to become a sage. Consequently, he has many stories to share from participants.
If you like books about books and meta-level fiction, you will love Jansma's novel.
And it's not so high concept that it's difficult to read.
The prot...moreIf you like books about books and meta-level fiction, you will love Jansma's novel.
And it's not so high concept that it's difficult to read.
The protagonist of Jansma's novel is an aspiring writer, and as such he is consumed with the task of writing and its affiliated tasks: reading great works of literature, having adventures so that he can "write what he knows," workshopping with other writers, taking creative writing classes, writing drafts, revising and despairing that one's work isn't original enough.
But don't despair. The book's setting isn't restricted to a writer's garret. You get to tag along to airport terminals, Manhattan night clubs, train travel in Asia, open air markets in Africa, and the theater in Luxembourg. With some additional stops in Vegas, Iceland a few stops in between.
But more than anything, the novel considers the adage that all good writers are liars who have trouble keeping fiction to the realm of writing and nonfiction to the realm of their lived experience. Both tend to merge.
For a while, I tried to keep straight what was fact and what was fiction, and then *facepalm* I decided to just sit back and enjoy the ride because OF COURSE there is no fact in this novel. The whole book is a work of fiction! And it's a big old celebration of the ability we have to just make things up as we go along (in real life as well as in the pages of a book).
The structure is a series of short stories that end up folding in on themselves. The character names change, events in the protagonist's life become fodder for his fiction, and the authorship of the entire novel itself comes into question as we go along but particularly by the conclusion. These little puzzles tease the reader throughout, and I'm still trying to figure out "What did Jansma just do there?"
And this is his first novel. I can't believe this, because his satire and his musings are very mature. And his allusions are skillfully deployed. He has a fun section set in Africa where the protagonist and a fiction editor flirt/discuss the use of doppelgangers in fiction. Oh be still my heart!
It's fun to get lost in all the literary allusions and the snarky and angst-ridden psyche of the protagonist and his best-friend writer while thinking about the wacky and whimsical world of fiction writing. (less)
This is an understated novel about the trials and triumphs of every day living. I find that it depicts the concerns of midlife and late life very well...moreThis is an understated novel about the trials and triumphs of every day living. I find that it depicts the concerns of midlife and late life very well. This novel is part life review of the dying and part the reflection many do at midlife. Those who are seeking a sensational tale will find it "boring." However, I find that it addresses issues that get to the very marrow of life.
I had just finished Gilead not long ago, and I had to force myself to finish. I didn't like Rev. Ames (the Boughton's neighbor and protagonist of that novel). But I was completely intrigued by Jack, a minor character in Gilead. Here Robinson fleshes him out in all his painful glory.
At a quick glance, Home looks like a book about a dying preacher, his "old maid" daughter and his prodigal son. But as the book progresses all three develop to be much more complex and nuanced.
We watch Jack Boughton examining his own worth after a twenty year absence. He's made a lot of bad decisions in his life, and he wonders if he has any more chances left.
Glory, his little sister, has mainly supported others and has never had the chance to put her own happiness first. A long engagement falls apart for strange but suspected reasons, and now she's supporting her dad and now her brother.
Rev. Robert Boughton wants nothing more than to see Jack enjoy a mighty change of life and reform according to the Christian ideals that the reverent preached for decades. Will the gospel take root in Jack's heart? Can the old preacher offer unconditional love? Can God? Can Jack even love himself?
With Jack's homecoming, all three review events from decades past and ask themselves questions about themselves and about the purpose of life and the nature of God, the character of the human heart, and our what it means to love another person. (less)
I recently saw the 2002 film adaptation of The Time Machine starring Guy Pierce, and I was struck by how much it differed from the 1960 film adaptatio...moreI recently saw the 2002 film adaptation of The Time Machine starring Guy Pierce, and I was struck by how much it differed from the 1960 film adaptation starring Rod Taylor. So I decided to read H.G. Wells' novel to see which version was closer to the novel. The 1960 version is closer, but they both change the story significantly.
The novel contains a lot of analysis that serves as political commentary as inspired by Darwin and Marx. In the films, the Eloi are seen as innocent victims and the ending is changed in both films from the novel so that the Time Traveler enters committed, romatic relationship with an Eloi woman. However, in the novel, the Eloi are examples of what the elite class will become if they continue to live "soft" lives at the expense of the working class, who are the Morlocks. The Eloi are pathetic: childlike, stupid and lazy. In the films, especially the 2002 version, the Eloi are romanticized and held up to be the noble savage, superior to the their technologically advanced ancestors.
The novel was meant to inspire social political reform. Instead, it helped to launch the genre of science fiction, which admittedly does often entertain a lot of themes intended to demonstrate the outcomes of bad social-political policies run amok.
It's interesting to watch Wells apply ideas of social Darwinism just 36 years after the publication of Origin of Species. I wonder how our imagined worlds will betray our own concerns when people read our fiction 100 plus years from now? (less)
Martha Stettinius graciously shares the path she and her mother have taken together over from 2005 to 2012 as her mother progresses through various st...moreMartha Stettinius graciously shares the path she and her mother have taken together over from 2005 to 2012 as her mother progresses through various stages of what is most likely Alzheimer's Disease.
Stettinius organizes her book chronologically, marking each section by the various places her mother resides:
Part One: Home Care Part Two: Assisted Living Part Three: Rehab Part Four: Memory Care Part Five: The Nursing Home
But the narrative within each section is not nearly as tidy as the section headings imply. Stettinius writes a memoir that foregrounds the thoughts and feelings she experiences as she takes on more and more responsibility for her mother's care. Assisting someone with dementia is no easy task, and Stettinius is very kind to let us watch her stumble through each challenge--both major and minor.
Yes, it's interesting to read information-rich guides about Alzheimer's and other dementias such as the 36 Hour Day and the evidence-based information available on Alz.org. However, memory problems affect identity and relationships so strongly that I find the memoir to be a better genre for helping others to understand and helping other to prepare to walk a similar path.
Stettinius starts in 2005 with her mother's minor car accident, but she also goes back in time to give more background about her mother's life and about her own relationship with her mother as a minor child and then as a young married. Her mother Judy worked as a teacher and later lived an idyllic life at a lake house. But Judy also struggled with alcohol addiction and mental illness.
Stettinius pushes through a lot of hurt and conflict to build and rebuild a relationship with her mother. The ever-changing landscape of dementia requires constant re-evaluation of the relationship and constant innovation, which on the one hand is exhausting but on the other hand can be rejuvenating.
I don't know if "enjoy" is the best way to describe the experience of reading a dementia memoir. However, I did feel enriched, inspired, heart broken and heartened by seeing their relationship morph through each trial. Brava to Stettinius for feeling her way through this bumpy ride and for sharing her insights with her readers.