I guess I should be interested in the topic of this memoir, since I just turned fifty and, if I’m lucky, sixty will be the next big milestone. I borrowed this book from an actual over-sixty person, and haven’t yet had a chance to ask if the original owner thinks it’s accurate, but what it mainly underlined for me is how young I still feel at fifty, and how much inevitable deterioration is likely to happen in the next ten years. Ian Brown seems like a pretty active guy, with all the skiing and biking he’s doing throughout the book, but he’s still definitely falling apart, physically, and spends a lot of time reflecting on this throughout the book. The rest of his time is spent reflection on 1) how old he looks (apparently it’s not just women who worry about this as they get older); 2) whether women still find him sexually attractive; 3) whether he’ll have enough money to live on in retirement (he thinks not, after a career in journalism, but seems to be living an extremely comfortable lifestyle during his sixty-first year, so maybe his standards for “enough” are higher than mine); and 4) whether he’s done the best work he could do, and whether it’s too late to do more (like write a great novel).
Does all this sound a little self-absorbed, maybe even boring at times? To me, the sign of a great memorist is someone who can make the book interesting to read even when the subject matter could be mundane. The other Ian Brown book I read, The Boy in Moon, had an inherently fascinating subject — caring for a profoundly disabled child. This one is about the more routine business of getting older, something we’ll all face if we’re lucky, but Ian is an interesting, thoughful, and funny enough writer to make the ride interesting, at least most of the time.