by Malcolm CowleyMalcolm Cowley was an American homme de lettres and an important literary figure in the mid twentieth century. He was an editor, literary historian, essayist and the most important chronicler of the "Lost Generation". He also wrote this thin volume, one of at least 7 books he finished after the age of 70.
I first read this book in 1984. Though I was a young man then, I had already as a teenager been interested in the end of life - an experience we must all deal with - and as a budding youth I was going to face everything head on... I must give that young person a smile of encouraging approval now. I was sufficiently taken by the book in 1984 that I kept it through the many moves from city to city and from country to country I have made since then.
Cowley writes in his Foreward: "Apparently a great deal had been written about old age, but most of the authors who dealt with it were lads and lassies, as it seemed to me, in their late fifties and sixties. They knew the literature but not the life." Now that I am one of the "lads" I may still not know the life (hints of it are definitely appearing), but my father has turned 90 (he married late for his generation, as he was distracted by a little thing called the Second World War) and my mother 83, so I am getting rather closely acquainted...
Although some do not reach old age, I have recently read that the "life expectancy" of an American male is 83, and for women a few more years, and even more for persons living in healthier countries (which, according to recent world health surveys, is all of the rest of the "First World"). This past week I read of the decease in Japan of the then "oldest living person" at the age of 114 - Heaven forbid!!! So, let's face it, most of us should be interested in the view from 80.
Cowley could have taken many tacks in this book, but he chose a direct, almost homely approach (motivated, I presume, by the fact that this book is based on an article commissioned by Life magazine, which for decades was the monthly with the largest circulation in the country). One should not read this book expecting profundity; but there are many truths, wry humor and even the occasional touch of wisdom.
I absolutely must close with the following striking passage, which Cowley quotes from Florida Scott-Maxwell's The Measure of My Days , written in her 83rd year: "We who are old know that age is more than a disability. It is an intense and varied experience, almost beyond our capacity at times, but something to be carried high. If it is a long defeat it is also a victory, meaningful for the initiates of time, if not for those who have come less far."
|Title||The View From 80|
|eBook format||Hardcover, (torrent)|
|Publisher||The Viking Press|
|File size||6.1 Mb|
|Book rating||3.93 (15 votes)