A finely crafted exploration of aging from gimlet-eyed essayist Shields (Body Politic: The Great American Sports Machine, 2004, etc.).
“My dad will be dead soon; one day I’ll be dead; despite—or perhaps because of—all the data gathered in this book, I still find these two facts overwhelming,” he writes. His 97-year-old father, “cussedly, maddeningly alive and interesting” (and a very sharp writer himself), is an endless source of vexation, continuity and fascination for Shields, whose text is part autobiography, part biography of Dad and part compendium of the brute facts of existence. These brute facts have all the delicacy of gas explosions. Examining his own body as the wheels start falling off, Shields rattles off great swarms of ineluctable disorders, diminishments and declensions that attend the human passage from plum to prune. His observations are sensitive, often funny and occasionally rueful, a glimpse of such shadows as the loss of basketball skills that once spoke loudly about being alive: “I remember dusk and macadam combining into the sensation that the world was dying but I was indestructible.” Shields’s loss of hair and waning eyesight, the ineradicable back pain, the “ice pack stuck in one coat pocket and a baggie of ibuprofen in the other,” may seem quotidian, but he invests the roll-call of dwindlings with a hint of bravado, his prose as exquisitely paced as the patter of a soft-shoe dancer trying to cheat the final curtain.
Lively skirmishes with a deathly topic, giving the loss of life its due.