Songs of Experience

Margaret Fowler, Author, Priscilla McCutcheon, With Ballantine Books $12.5 (379p) ISBN 978-0-345-36057-1
This splendid collection, which uses 20th-century literature to explore the trials and triumphs of aging, can be recommended to old and young alike. In an interview, Henry Miller notes that later in life, ``being'' became more important to him than ``doing.'' In contrast, in a journal begun in her 80s, psychologist Florida Scott-Maxwell says the sheer ``fervor of life'' is a problem at that age: ``We are more alive than seems likely, convenient, or even bearable.'' Charles Baxter's short story ``Fenstad's Mother'' looks at a man's uneasy relationship with his assertive, aging mother. Poets lend a variety of perspectives on age: Stephen Spender sees the ``layers'' of youth in old, loved faces, while to Marilyn Zuckerman old age offers a chance to begin a new, independent life. Anthropologist Barbara Myerhoffspelling ok describes the magic of her grandmother's storytelling, which taught her that all people have their own stories to tell. In excerpts from his correspondence, George Bernard Shaw blithely dismisses himself as a ``ghastly old skeleton of a celebrity'' and quips that Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Ernest is ``Gilbert and Sullivan minus Sullivan.'' Fowler has edited anthologies on environmental issues; McCutcheon is past director of the National Center on Arts and the Aging of the National Council on Aging in Washington, D.C. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1991
Release date: 04/01/1991
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