Novelist/critic Grumbach (The Magician's Girl, 1987, etc.) confronts age and mortality in this rambling, if elegantly phrased, journal of the year following her 70th birthday. Stating at the outset that she is ``taking notes, hoping to find in the recording process a positive value to living so long,'' Grumbach proceeds with a month-by-month chronicle of a year in which, expecting little (``I'd be surprised if anything of interest happens...''), she instead experiences and learns quite a bit. Despite what seems to be an extremely busy life—writing fiction, reviewing books for National Public Radio, assisting her companion in their bookstore, traveling (to Mexico, Paris, Maine, New York, Boston, and Key West)—Grumbach feels haunted by death—in the daily reminders of her own diminished vitality and, more tragically, in the AIDS-related losses of several younger friends. And so, ``taking stock,'' she sorts through her life, recalling significant people, places, and events as they come to mind. She finds time to exult, writing lovingly about the Maya, the sea, finely printed books, writing, family and friends. More often, though, she grumbles—about ``shoddy'' new books, crowds in movie theaters, ``speed...fast cars, planes, rapid talkers, swift up and down escalators, athletes, the computer's cursor,'' overly familiar attendants in doctors' offices. Throughout, the author's vigorous activities and opinions contrast oddly with her sense that ``it is too late,'' the final turnabout being her move from an established life in Washington, D.C., to face a ``chaotic'' future in rural Maine. Regrettably, the shapeless journal form allows neither writer nor reader a chance to savor the unfolding ironies. Enmeshed in her ``new era of self-indulgence,'' Grumbach has fashioned only what seems to be rough fodder for a full-scale autobiography, a novel, or perhaps a collection of essays. As is, we get jottings, we get pronouncements, we get bored. Interesting content, badly in need of form.
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