AT EIGHTY TWO: A Journal by May Sarton


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Sarton died in July at the age of 83, less than a year after the last entry in this journal where she both anticipated death and celebrated life with the keen and unflinching perception that is Sarton at her best. A poet, novelist, and chronicler of her own life--the last via a series of journals that began with the early Journal of a Solitude and continued with Endgame (1992) and Encore (1993)--Sarton had a devoted and growing readership but, to her sorrow, was not included in the literary canon that welcomed such peers as Elizabeth Bowen and Eudora Welty. That regret surfaces often in the pages of this journal, partly because the year includes foraging through her past on behalf of several biographers as well as publishers in the US, England, and Japan who are reissuing or publishing new collections of her poems. But though Sarton's earlier journals have been criticized for being ""querulous"" and ""cranky,"" At Eighty-Two avoids these pitfalls by adopting a more objective stance than Sarton had previously taken. The subject matter is much the same--""wonderful"" friends, flowers, her cat, the weather, the books she is reading, details of her physical and mental state, what she once called the ""sacramentalization of the ordinary."" But as with her novels, Sarton now stands slightly outside herself, gaining the leverage to describe her days with compelling integrity. Ongoing depression is managed by a tough discipline that refuses to escape into sleep or sloppy habits, tenderized by the sweet smell of narcissus and the soft purr of her cat at naptime. ""Most of the time I am happy,"" she says. ""Each day I plan something I can look forward to."" But, she adds later, ""the effort is staggering"" A resonant reflection on being old and an appropriate legacy for Sarton's many devotees.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 039331622X
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Norton