- ISBN-13: 9781101903766
- ISBN-10: 1101903767
- Publisher: Tim Duggan Books
- Publish Date: April 2016
- Page Count: 160
- Dimensions: 7 x 4.7 x 0.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.5 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-02-29
- Reviewer: Staff
In this collection of eight essays, Kinsley (Please Don’t Remain Calm), a columnist at Vanity Fair, a New Yorker contributor, and the founder of Slate, proposes—somewhat facetiously—that life is a game in which all of us are in competition. As such, he asks, what does it mean to “win” at life? Does it pay off to have the most possessions, live the longest, or be remembered best? Kinsley doesn’t really present an answer, but it’s enjoyable to follow his train of thought. The focus is ultimately on coming to terms with the final chapter of life, which, in Kinsley’s case, means coming to terms with being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Throughout, Kinsley showcases his fine writing, tackling a potentially depressing subject with a mixture of humor and serious reflection. Though targeted most specifically to Kinsley’s own generation of the baby boomers, the book might be helpful for anyone who has a progressive illness. Readers are almost forced to accept the premise of life as competition, as it appears time and again throughout, and some may find this disconcerting. However, Kinsley’s superb prose and well-judged tone—both frustrated and hopeful for the future—make this a valuable book for anyone interested in exploring ideas around life, death, and legacy. (Apr.)
A baby boomer's outlook on aging
In 1993, then-42-year-old Michael Kinsley was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Now, through the lens of that experience, the former editor of The New Republic, serving as a “scout from my generation,” offers his 79 million fellow baby boomers a clear-eyed glimpse of the decline that may lie ahead, while urging them to take stock of what they’ll leave behind when life’s clock inevitably runs out.
Despite the bad fortune of its early onset, Kinsley’s Parkinson’s has been relatively mild. It wasn’t until 2002 that he publicly disclosed his disease, seven years after he left his position as co-host of CNN’s “Crossfire.” He underwent a deep-brain stimulation procedure in 2006 that has slowed the advance of his symptoms. But as he reveals in his wry account of a recent battery of cognitive tests, his decline, however measured, is perceptible.
Citing the estimated 28 million baby boomers who are expected to develop Alzheimer’s disease or a related disorder, Kinsley points to the “tsunami of dementia” about to afflict this cohort. For a generation that will be remembered for its ambition and competitiveness, he argues, this slowly dawning, frightening knowledge is likely to spark a round of “competitive cognition,” where “whoever dies with more of their marbles” is considered the ultimate victor in the game of life.
Kinsley concludes Old Age: A Beginner’s Guide with a plea to his fellow boomers to make a grand gesture that would be the moral equivalent of the Greatest Generation’s triumph over Hitler: a self-imposed tax on the massive transfer of wealth they’re currently enjoying to help whittle down America’s mountain of debt. It’s a bold, if not entirely realistic, proposal from someone who understands, and has communicated here with candor and characteristic wit, the daunting challenge facing his contemporaries as they contemplate life’s final act.