Sixty: A Diary of My Sixty-First Year: The Beginning of the End, or the End of the Beginning?

Sixty: A Diary of My Sixty-First Year: The Beginning of the End, or the End of the Beginning?

by Ian Brown
     
 

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This is the thing, you see: I am on my way to being an old man. But at sixty, I am still the youngest of old men.

As Ian Brown’s sixtieth birthday loomed, every moment seemed to present a choice: Confront, or deny, the biological fact that the end was now closer than the beginning. True, he was beginning to notice memory lapses, creaking

Overview

This is the thing, you see: I am on my way to being an old man. But at sixty, I am still the youngest of old men.

As Ian Brown’s sixtieth birthday loomed, every moment seemed to present a choice: Confront, or deny, the biological fact that the end was now closer than the beginning. True, he was beginning to notice memory lapses, creaking knees, and a certain social invisibility—and yet, it troubled him that many people think of sixty as “old,” because he rarely felt older than at forty.

An award-winning writer, Brown instead chose to notice every moment, try to understand it, capture it . . . all without panicking. Sixty is the result: Brown’s uncensored account of his sixty-first year, and, informed by his reportorial gifts, his investigation of the many changes—physical, mental, and emotional—that come to all of us as we age.

Brown is a master of the seriocomic, and his day-to-day dramas—as a husband, father, brother, son, friend, and neighbor—are rendered, inseparably, with wistfulness and laugh-out-loud wit. He is also a discerning, prolific reader, and it is a pure pleasure being privy to his thoughts on the dozens of writers—including Virginia Woolf, Philip Larkin, A. J. Liebling, Wisława Szymborska, Clive James, Sharon Olds, and Karl Ove Knausgaard—who speak to him most, at sixty.

From an author on whom the telling detail is never lost, Sixty is a richly informative, candid report from the line between middle-aged and soon-to-be-elderly. It perfectly captures the obsessions of a generation realizing that they are no longer young.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Jennifer Senior
…a great, fat rosebush of a book that's beautiful and pungent and, at moments, deceptively prickly…As I read Sixty, I kept thinking, why have so few people done this well? It really is a splendid idea, a frank account of getting older…Mr. Brown…is well suited to the task, taking a microscope to his grizzling soul and reporting everything he sees, even the bacteria crabbing along its surface…Mr. Brown is charming, thoughtful and edifying company. There's loads to identify with in Sixty. More than that: There's loads to flat-out adore. Mr. Brown's reflections on friendship are soulful and worth committing to heart. So are his meditations on marriage and parenthood. He reads and quotes promiscuously…And prose snobs will love him. To borrow a phrase he uses about Robin Williams, his writing quicksilvers along; his capsule descriptions are sublime.
Publishers Weekly
06/13/2016
On the day he turns 60, journalist Brown (The Boy in the Moon) starts keeping a diary. Brown probes the daily details of his first-year as a sexagenarian in an attempt to stave off his fear of breaking down physically and mentally as well to get to know his current self, which is different from his former self but retains shadows of it. In a memoir that is occasionally funny or momentarily poignant but more often simply wearisome, Brown lets down his guard to share his deepest anxieties about his aging life. Unsurprisingly, he provides a litany of the physical challenges of aging: the urge to pee, a crippling plantar fasciitis that hobbles him, aging eyes that require glaucoma drops as well as graduated lenses. He compares himself to celebrities who’ve turned 60—Jay Leno, whose “skin is clear but the color of my dining room table”; Tom Petty, who at 63 “looks younger and more relaxed than I do”—as a way of comforting himself. In the end, he longs to be less afraid as he moves forward, and he wants to be younger and stronger as the years progress, but he realizes time is “running out faster than I can know.” Those turning 60 will appreciate and find resonance with Brown’s honest grappling with his aging. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
Shortlisted for the 2016 RBC Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction

A CBC Best Book of the Year

A Globe and Mail Best Book [2015]

“Mr. Brown is charming, thoughtful and edifying company. There’s loads to identify with in Sixty. More than that: There’s loads to flat-out adore. . . . Brown’s reflections on friendship are soulful and worth committing to heart. So are his meditations on marriage and parenthood.”—The New York Times

“A spark of humor shines through even these serious topics, which he handles gracefully. Well considered and illuminating, Sixty allows readers to delve deeply into the real meaning of maturity.”Booklist

“Brown's humor is pointed inward as often as outward, and he neither glosses over nor languishes on the fact that he has fewer years ahead of him than behind.”—Kirkus

“Provides readers, baby boomers in particular, with examples of how to live thoughtfully and observantly.”—Library Journal

“Those turning 60 will appreciate and find resonance with Brown’s honest grappling with his aging.”—Publishers Weekly

“I would read anything Ian Brown writes. This is a particular pleasure: Humane, funny, dark, wry, and utterly engrossing.”
Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief

“Finding out Ian Brown has turned sixty is like finding out my bad little brother has turned sixty: I’d expect him to have a disarming, slightly disreputable take on this least interesting of birthdays (long now in my rearview mirror). And with Sixty, I’m certainly not disappointed. Ever the witty, ever the mischievous, observant and likable, Ian Brown has written a book that other sixty-year-olds can keep on their breakfast table, to dip into with their Ovaltine. It’s a splendid companion book to aging—a condition when ordinary companionship is, frankly, not always that agreeable.”
Richard Ford

“I’ve been reading Ian Brown since before I needed reading glasses. He’s wise—poetic even—and willing to be unabashedly petty, which is what makes this book so funny and almost too true.”
Sarah VowellNew York Times–bestselling author of seven books, most recently Lafayette in the Somewhat United States
 
“Ian Brown is so wise and insightful and funny about the indignities of turning sixty that he makes those of us who haven’t yet reached that harrowing birthday believe that maybe it won’t be so bad. Surely, once we get there, we’ll all be as wise and insightful and funny as Ian is. We won’t, of course: This book, like its author, is one of a kind. A wonderful, inspiring, occasionally cringe-inducing chronicle of a very human year.”
Paul Tough, author of Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why

“Growing old has its burdens and pleasures. Ian Brown captures them both so beautifully that he almost makes the reader wish for sixty. There is a lot of wisdom in these pages.”
Ari L. Goldman, author of The Late Starters Orchestra

"Sixty may find [Brown’s] biggest audience yet; there are so many of us in the same creaky boat. Written with [Brown’s] trademark gutsy candour, and full of self-deprecating wit. . . . Edifying . . . accessible.”
Plum Johnson, award-winning author of They Left Us Everything, in the Globe and Mail

“Thoughtful, heartfelt, fearless, impossible to put down . . . Brown manages to be both hilarious and serious . . . His ultimate message—to pay attention, to keep our eyes open, to look at ‘what is coming down the road’—is vital.” —Quill & Quire (starred review)

“Funny, honest and profound.” —CBC

“Wickedly honest and brutally funny.” —Global News

“Brown applies his precise insights and self-deprecating humor to the universal anxiety about aging.” —Ottawa Citizen

“Like everything Brown writes, there’s a smooth quality to the prose. The reader is carried along effortlessly on Brown's thought waves, his regrets (he has wasted his life) and his follies (overspending yet dedicating himself entirely to underpaid journalism). Readers are granted a rare private tour of a very bright, introspective and sensitive man's brain. It’s raw, it’s real and it’s scary as hell.”—Winnipeg Free Press

“Wry and hilarious. . . . a fascinating blend of astute observation, penetrating insight and self-deprecating good humour. . . . [Sixty] taps [Brown’s] own inner and outer lives and the reader is rewarded by his musings on the existential angst he believes sets in after sixty. . . . [A] unique blend of realism and bravado. . . . Brown’s book is crisp, candid and wonderfully written. No reader, of any age, should miss it.” —The Sarnia Observer
Kirkus Reviews
2016-05-31
A journalist's diary of age 60.In 2014, Brown (The Boy in the Moon: A Father's Journey to Understand His Extraordinary Son, 2011, etc.) arrived at one of the crossroads of life that even the most self-assured among us cannot help but eye warily. No longer a young man, nor even middle-aged, but on the cusp of "heading into the last turn, or for the back nine, or toward the clubhouse (someone should make a list of all the euphemisms we employ to denote the onset of aging)," the author looked back on a resolution he made at 50 to take note of the details around him and the processes unfolding within him. For 10 years, that resolution got lost in the daily shuffle of obligations. As 60 approached, he found a dearth of levelheaded explorations of that age. Displeased with the cheerleading of seniorhood as just another "new and ever-younger future," an assessment that "mostly made me want to run shrieking from the room," Brown found new motivation to try his hand at it. The subjects that find their ways into these pages aren't surprising: the author mulls over his own flagging ambitions as a writer, wondering where the drive to swing for the fences went and why he didn't harness it when it was active. He considers the writing of others—not just about aging, but also the importance of being present in one's current environment. Conversations with lifelong friends often turned into the airing of the newest physical grievances. Young editors at the newspaper told him to develop his Twitter presence and build his list of followers on YouTube. His reactions reflect the knowledge of someone who understands technology well enough to acknowledge the shifting paradigms while also dismissing much of it as ridiculous. If that sounds cantankerous, the author is not. Brown's humor is pointed inward as often as outward, and he neither glosses over nor languishes on the fact that he has fewer years ahead of him than behind.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781615193509
Publisher:
The Experiment
Publication date:
08/23/2016
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
63,991
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

Ian Brown is an author and a feature writer for the Globe and Mail whose work has won many national magazine and national newspaper awards. His most recent book, The Boy in the Moon: A Father’s Search for His Disabled Son, was named one of The New York Times 10 best books of the year and reviewed on the front cover of The Times Book Review, and Ian Brown was the subject of a feature interview on NPR’s Fresh Air. The book was also the winner of the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction, the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction and the Trillium Book Award. His previous books include Freewheeling, which won the National Business Book Award, and the provocative examination of modern masculinity, Man Overboard. He lives in Toronto.

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