THE LAST GIFT OF TIME by Carolyn G. Heilbrun


Life Beyond Sixty
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 This very satisfactory collection of essays celebrates the author's seventh decade as she looks back on it from her serene and energetic eighth. Heilbrun is a former Columbia University professor and a writer noted both for her feminist scholarship (Writing a Woman's Life, 1988, etc.) and her Amanda Cross mysteries. Satisfactorily married for half a century, the mother of three grown children, and a grandmother, she nevertheless planned to commit suicide when she reached 70. But when that magic number arrived, she discovered in looking back that living through her 60s had been an ``astonishing'' pleasure. Unlike some of her peers--Doris Grumbach and May Sarton among them--she has not grown crankier as she has grown older, and she attributes that in part to a life with ``many advantages,'' including good health and the discovery of close women friends. At first glance, the essays encompass a broad diversity of subjects, from Bianca the black dog to the joys of E-mail to androgyny and bisexuality (in a liberating section called ``On Not Wearing Dresses''), and including thoughts on living with men and on the fantasies of a lifelong Anglophile. Yet in fact, the range is narrow. Each piece, more or less fruitfully, discusses coming to terms with the past and formulating the terms of the present ``without a constant . . . stream of anger and resentment, without the daily contemplation of power always in the hands of the least worthy.'' In essence, the author describes a state not of growing older, but of being older, a state that incorporates both grace and growth. Drawing elegantly on the poets and authors she has taught and written about, from Andrew Marvell to Gloria Steinem, Heilbrun offers a glimpse not only of the rewards of aging, but of feminist battles fought and won.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-385-31325-X
Page count: 220pp
Publisher: Dial
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1997


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