The Whorled

Old Age A Beginner's Guide

Never trust a book by its cover (also never trust the NYT bestsellers list). Sorry to take a potshot at the gray lady but, I call bullshit on this book. Not only is it not a guide, but it is not as “surprisingly cheerful” (I call it flippant privileged ignorance) or “laugh out loud funny” (more laugh out loud at the way old systems of ignoring aging are perpetuated) or a “fresh assessment of a generation” (nothing fresh here, we all already knew that accomplished yt boomer males were this self absorbed).

OABG was written by the acclaimed and accomplished writer/editor Michael Kinsley. He founded Slate (you know that vaguely tech magazine you see in airport bookstores) and has served as a columnist and editor at the most notable magazines of late like The New Republic, The Economist, and Vanity Fair.

Kinsley was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1993 at the age of 43 and until this book was published in 2016, was largely under the radar as a public figure with Parkinson. He notes at the outset of the book that it would be more about baby boomers than about Parkinson’s and at that, I should have put the book right down!

I found the few moments when he wrote about denial and the fear of losing work because of Parkinson’s to be the realest parts of his book. I could relate because I know that my father was in a deep state of denial as he faced escalating and worsening symptoms. The difference is my father actually lost his job and quit another after he stopped driving due to accidents. Maybe if my father had picked up this book the small gems about the symptoms, treatment, and future for people of Parkinson’s buried in Kinsley’s out of touch, self aggrandizing history would have reached him.

OABG ends with a crackpot boomer scheme to fix the national debt that I found confusing and irrelevant. Kinsley is the self important uncle that you want to just shut up and write a check for you because you know he is loaded.  Except my feelings are exactly like the solution he provides in the final chapter, therein, the whole problem with the boomer generation. You just can’t let something rot away and then throw money at it to fix it.

Read it if you want to, it will take 1 day max. Or just read the one chapter I recommend below. I tentatively recommend it to the people in your life who are deep in denial. It is bite sized and easily digested so hopefully it will won’t justify their denial any further and instead maybe shine  a little light on how to get closer to, as Kinsley puts in his only redeeming paragraph the “aspiration” of acceptance.

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“I might not have chosen to join this old people’s club at forty-three, although you must admit it’s a pretty good joke on someone who used to like being thought of as precocious. If life is a race to the finish line, I’m years ahead now. In the course of our lives, most of us will get news like this one day. And every day you don’t get this kind of bad news increases the chance that you’ll get it tomorrow. So get ready.

There are three ways to deal with news like this: acceptance, confrontation, or denial. Acceptance is an aspiration, not a strategy. Confrontation means putting the disease at the center of your life…. Denial, on the other hand, means letting the disease affect your day-to-day life as little as possible. In fact, it means pretending as best you can that you don’t even have it.”

P. 20

Rachel showing her sticky notes to prove she did read the whole book (2x!)

Rachel showing her sticky notes to prove she did read the whole book (2x!)

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