I wasn’t sure what to expect from the book Old Age: A Beginner’s Guide by Michael Kinsley but I was certainly intrigued by the title. It seemed cute and hinted that it might be a light-hearted look at the inevitable. That’s exactly what it is.
Michael Kinsley does the Baby Boomer generation a great service with this book. First, he lets them off the hook of trying to follow The Greatest Generation in terms of doing something important and being worth a darn. He points out that it was TGG that put us in the situation where we ran up huge debt, shortened our life expectancy and had nothing but storage units full of stuff to show for it.
If the name sounds familiar, he was a Vanity Fair columnist and founder of Slate. Kinsley’s snarky wit and writing style is a perfect fit for telling the tale of his slowly-advancing Parkinson’s disease alongside his advancing realization of what is important in life. He tells his only Parkinson’s joke (and the only one I have ever heard) and keeps you smiling while covering some pretty deep and somber issues.
He points out some things we all seem to know but never really talk about. Things like – 60 is roughly the age when people stop being surprised that you look old and start being surprised that you look young. One of my favorite quotes from the book gives some insight into how he thinks,“Even the most successful people die eventually, and they spend longer dead than they did alive.”
If you’re in your 20s old age is something like the Ice Age – you’ve heard about it but cannot really visualize it. If you are in your 30s or 40s I think only the hypochondriacs will find it interesting. If you are 50 or above this very pragmatic look at aging will be an interesting read.
by Chris Doelle