New York Times columnist Gubar (Reading and Writing Cancer) references literary works to present a probing discussion of aging in this bittersweet memoir. At 70 and in remission from ovarian cancer, Gubar and her 87-year-old husband, Don Gray (both retired English professors at Indiana University), grappled with the prospect of moving from their home of 21 years to a more manageable condo. Gray was recovering from a torn tendon caused by a fall as Gubar set out to gather and ponder literary works addressing late-life love. Her intriguing text moves organically between two overriding topics: the first being domestic and concerning practical issues that arise as the devoted couple faces health issues (a nicked bowel during ovarian cancer surgery left Gubar with an ostomy bag), as well as concerns about their four adult children, grandchildren, and aging friends. The second is how “autumnal romance” is portrayed in works by Samuel Beckett, Marilynn Robinson, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and others. Though Gubar presents a sampling of thorny examples (for instance, Updike’s “late-life lechery” in his third “Rabbit” novel), she also unearths many that offer views of aging love as deep and inspiring. Gubar’s wise, honest, and frequently humorous work (“the Latin word for old woman is anus,” she notes) reveals that even amid the inevitable struggles of old age, personal and conjugal reinvention is not only quite possible, but also quite possibly lovely—both in literature, and in life. (Nov.)
With her characteristic candor, wide-ranging intelligence, and sympathetic humor Susan Gubar has given us another astonishing memoir, of what she calls ‘late-life love’ and its vicissitudes. So vividly does Susan Gubar write, so richly, visually, and even aurally does her prose spring to life, it’s as if we are taken by the hand by the memoirist and led through the adventures of the life she and her beloved husband live in the shadow of illness and aging.
[A] winning, intelligent mix of candid personal history and reflections on relevant fiction, poetry and movies... [An] impressive, often heartening addition to the literature of aging.
In the midst of her own life-threatening illness, her husband’s immobilizing injury, and an impending household downsizing, Susan Gubar decided to write this mesmerizing meditation on late-life love. The resulting volume provides an insightful, wry, and honest look at the physical and emotional aspects of late-life love, intertwining personal memoir with literature, philosophy, and popular culture. Gubar’s brilliantly composed book offers a delightful primer for all readers interested in this most under-examined topic.
Gubar confronts life's most personal circumstances and her innermost fears and triumphs with wit, joy, sensitivity, and abundant honesty.
Gubar turns her fertile, critical mind and vast bibliographic knowledge to 'the physical and psychological, the sexual and familial challenges of later-life love.'
A unique blend of memoir and literary commentary, with Gubar at the helm as an accomplished, bravely honest, and mesmerizing guide...Gubar seamlessly weaves in lengthy discussions of a wide-range of literature...Reading these analyses is like having a season ticket to a series of fascinating literary discussions.
'Age in love loves not to have years told,' Shakespeare wrote, explaining the elaborate game of lies that enabled him to pretend that he was still young. But what if one loves and stops pretending? Susan Gubar’s Late-Life Love is a tender, unsparing, poignant answer to this question, a love story that braids together intimate self-revelation with a rich meditation on the literature of aging.”
Battling cancer and with her husband facing age-related disabilities, leading literary critic Gubar (Madwoman in the Attic) looked at what eminent authors from Ovid to Toni Morrison had to say about longevity. Late-life meaning not just for individuals but for older couples, shown to be different from their younger counterparts.
A deeply personal and bittersweet paean to love "immune to the vicissitude of time."
Feminist scholar Gubar's (Emeritus, English/Indiana Univ.; Reading and Writing Cancer: How Words Heal, 2016, etc.) memoir could be read as the third in a trilogy of books she's recently written exploring her fight against cancer and the roles art and love play in the battle. Her husband, Don, 17 years older than she and suffering from injuries and age-related problems, figured in earlier books, but he's front and center here. Complicating their time together was the difficult decision to leave their large house, Inverness, for an apartment. She borrows a term from Joyce Carol Oates, "bibliomemoir," to describe her quest to find "honest portraits" from fiction, poems, plays, and films that deal with the "tensions, tussles, and triumphs of my own later-life love affair." Gubar "integrate[s] literary interpretation with personal reflection" to fashion a "resounding retort to overwhelmingly negative valuations of aging." She sets off "searching for trail markings on an uncleared path" with Jenny Diski's "comedy of bad manners," Happily Ever After, and then discovers Helen Simonson's "sparkling" novel about loss, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, which drew her into a "world unlike my own." Gubar also discusses Samuel Beckett's "unexpectedly funny" play Happy Days, a "geriatric farce intriguing in its portrayal of a later-life love affair like no other." Gabriel García Márquez's "sprawling" Love in the Time of Cholera hits the "grand slam of late-life love tradition" with its portrait of love as "both a sickness and an anodyne." Offering particular support were poet and translator Jane Kenyon, Donald Hall's poems about his ill wife, and Marilynne Robinson's Gilead and Lila, which cost Gubar "half a box of tissues."
In a book filled with wit, candor, and poignancy, the author concludes, "late-life love may heat at a lower temperature, but it bubbles and rises."
"Gubar's wise, honest, and frequently humorous work reveals that even amid the inevitable struggles of old age, personal and conjugal reinvention is not only quite possible, but also quite possibly lovely?both in literature and in life."- Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"A deeply personal and bittersweet paean to love 'immune to the vicissitude of time.'...[A] book filled with wit, candor, and poignancy."- Kirkus
"'Age in love loves not to have years told,' Shakespeare wrote, explaining the elaborate game of lies that enabled him to pretend that he was still young. But what if one loves and stops pretending? Susan Gubar's Late-Life Love is a tender, unsparing, poignant answer to this question, a love story that braids together intimate self-revelation with a rich meditation on the literature of aging."- Stephen Greenblatt