An autobiographer records the adventure of his own aging.
Now in the midst of his eighth decade, Murray (English/Univ. of New Hampshire) relives a lifetime filled with love and tragedy, struggle and triumph—in many ways not an unusual story. He endured a cramped, unhappy youth, the only child of peculiarly unloving and inept parents. School was miserable. A WWII paratrooper and military policeman, he took part in the Battle of the Bulge. The graphic descriptions of the carnage are among the most powerful parts of his text, and, after more than half a century, the author seems still not quite discharged from the scenes of war. Tragedy intruded even upon Murray’s peacetime world, through the death of his beloved daughter. With such a history, it’s little surprise that the author’s story resembles something that might be uttered on an analyst’s couch—but it is somewhat strange to hear Murray fret that he has presented one self to the world, while living another life in secret. His account becomes universal and ultimately sustaining in the end. He discusses such matters as the geriatric habit of accumulating stuff (and more stuff), the shame and management of incontinence, and the health problems (including diabetes, depression, Parkinson’s, and heart disease) that one may pick up across the years. Throughout it all, Murray is sustained by (and sustains) his wife, who is his comrade in the battle against burgeoning illnesses. They watch each other with an intimacy and compassion that will be a revelation to those of a younger generation.
A superior and wise memoir: The old writer’s mechanical functions may be failing, but his ability to tell a story clearly, thoughtfully, and forcefully is intact as he sends a report from a country foreign to most readers.