Old Age : A Beginner's Guide
by Michael Kinsley

Overview - Vanity Fair columnist Michael Kinsley escorts his fellow Boomers through the door marked "Exit."

The notorious baby boomers--the largest age cohort in history--are approaching the end and starting to plan their final moves in the game of life.  Read more...

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More About Old Age by Michael Kinsley
Vanity Fair columnist Michael Kinsley escorts his fellow Boomers through the door marked "Exit."

The notorious baby boomers--the largest age cohort in history--are approaching the end and starting to plan their final moves in the game of life. Now they are asking: What was that all about? Was it about acquiring things or changing the world? Was it about keeping all your marbles? Or is the only thing that counts after you're gone the reputation you leave behind?

In this series of essays, Michael Kinsley uses his own battle with Parkinson's disease to unearth answers to questions we are all at some time forced to confront. "Sometimes," he writes, "I feel like a scout from my generation, sent out ahead to experience in my fifties what even the healthiest Boomers are going to experience in their sixties, seventies, or eighties."

This surprisingly cheerful book is at once a fresh assessment of a generation and a frequently funny account of one man's journey toward the finish line. "The least misfortune can do to make up for itself is to be interesting," he writes. "Parkinson's disease has fulfilled that obligation."

  • 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

Related Categories

Books > Literary Collections > Essays
Books > Health & Fitness > Diseases - General
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Personal Memoirs

Publishers Weekly Reviews

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.)

BookPage Reviews

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.


This article was originally published in the May 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

BAM Customer Reviews