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May Sarton, the poet who charted her late-middle and old age in a series of published journals, died in July, leaving behind the last of them, At Eighty-Two. Sarton worried about this book: "It is a description of severe depression," she writes in one entry, "and I have been wondering even if it should be published."
Such doubts won't be shared, however, by the many readers already addicted to her daily musings. As in her earlier journals, Sarton recounts mostly mundane occurrences -- conversations with her many friends, books she reads. She shares poems and snippets of fan mail; she admires her cat. Her low days stem not from a prescient suspicion that she is living her last full year, but from tallying up regrets. Regret one: that she is "nowhere as a poet" and "a failure" because her fans are "ordinary people," not reviewers. Regret two, ironically (as she occasionally realizes): that she's uncomfortably busy getting published and being revered.
Beset by the frailties of age, she rarely steps out to her beloved garden. Still, she's showered with flowers and notes from devotees, and she so delights in life's small pleasures that -- despite weeping over bum reviews and endangered species -- she rarely seems truly depressed. "Yesterday was a dismal, absolutely dismal day," begins a typical sentence, "except for the fact that a bunch of flowers and a beautiful pink cyclamen came for me." Alternately cranky, whiny, nostalgic, appreciative, thrilled, Sarton is both childish and appealingly childlike. Which may be why, although this isn't the strongest of her journals, we miss her when the final page is turned. -- Salon