The Oldest We've Ever Been: Seven True Stories of Midlife Transitions

Overview

I had this idea of where I should be in middle age, an image that had been born in the 1950s when I’d been a child watching Lassie on TV. As outdated as it was, that blurred snapshot somewhere at the back of my mind actually did have a green lawn, a house, a picket fence, and two kids: a boy and a girl. In the corner, there was my husband in a suit coming home from work. And was that me at the front door in an apron? Did every woman my age have a similar snapshot in their mental scrapbook? In the decades since ...

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Overview

I had this idea of where I should be in middle age, an image that had been born in the 1950s when I’d been a child watching Lassie on TV. As outdated as it was, that blurred snapshot somewhere at the back of my mind actually did have a green lawn, a house, a picket fence, and two kids: a boy and a girl. In the corner, there was my husband in a suit coming home from work. And was that me at the front door in an apron? Did every woman my age have a similar snapshot in their mental scrapbook? In the decades since Lassie, maybe I’d managed to update the picture some. I’d erased the apron and added a home office instead. Still, there it was. And here I was, nowhere near it. In this engaging collection, editor Maud Lavin has enlisted seven talented writers to share their stories of midlife transitions, reflecting the unpredictable challenges and unexpected graces that characterize this multilayered stage of life. The writers—Kim Larsen, Calvin Forbes, Ellen McMahon, Allan deSouza, Peggy Shinner, William Davies King, and Maud Lavin together with Locke Bowman—offer a wide range of stories and experiences that are both universal and deeply personal in their details. From tales of divorce and dating through the lens of an eccentric collecting habit to the challenges of dealing with a close friend’s grave illness, these memorable essays evoke a complex, honest, and often surprising picture of what it means to be middle-aged. The authors aim to share stories appreciating midlife, not as the problem child of self-help books (those many manuals that claim to have the answer to menopausal mood swings or abdominal fat or bone thinning), but as a wealth of events and perceptions and feelings never experienced before. This richly layered montage offers readers a chance to reflect on the gifts of this age and, finally, to savor the idea of being "the oldest we’ve ever been.”

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

A professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Lavin gathers seven personal essays by writers, artists and activists that probe divorce, remarriage, friendship, parenthood, illness and death as they celebrate the richness of midlife experience. William Davies King opens up about his painful divorce and his effort to understand how his bizarre habit of collecting tuna-fish can labels and cereal boxes speaks to both his self-hatred and creativity. Kim Larsen relates how middle age was the end of the road for an opinionated and prickly friend who lost first her tongue and then her life to cancer at 46. Giving hope to even the most jaded, Lavin and Locke Bowman tell how they revived a college romance into an e-mail love affair and then a marriage 22 years after first breaking up. Peggy Shinner goes to her accountant because he reminds her of her late, rough-edged, self-made Jewish father; and self-mutilating, sexually precocious teenager Alice puts mom Ellen McMahon through the wringer. Although most of the essays suffer from long-windedness and affectation, the sentiments expressed are genuine, moving and brave-and will be eminently recognizable to baby boomers. (Mar. 13)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816526161
  • Publisher: University of Arizona Press
  • Publication date: 3/13/2008
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Maud Lavin is Professor of Visual and Critical Studies and Art History, Theory and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is the author of Clean New World: Culture, Politics, and Graphic Design and Cut with the Kitchen Knife: The Weimar Photomontages of Hannah Höch (named a New York Times Book Review Notable Book) and the editor of The Business of Holidays. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts grant and a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship.
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Table of Contents

Editor's Introduction   Maud Lavin     vii
Nothing Gained   William Davies King     1
When the Middle Is the End   Kim Larsen     25
My Mother, My Sight   Allan deSouza     54
Through the Looking Glass   Ellen McMahon     71
My Dead   Calvin Forbes     103
Tax Time   Peggy Shinner     132
Reuniting   Maud Lavin   Locke Bowman     141
Acknowledgments     205
Contributors     207
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