THE VIEW IN WINTER: Reflections on Old Age by Ronald Blythe
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THE VIEW IN WINTER: Reflections on Old Age

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KIRKUS REVIEW

It is the nature of old men and women to become their own confessors, poets, philosophers, apologists, and story-tellers."" Ronald Blythe (Akenfield) draws eloquence and humor out of elderly English country-folk, and adds his own trenchant reflections (especially on the ""immense""--in rebuttal to Simone de Beauvoir--literary history of aging). Nurse, farmer, farrier, miner's widow, and engineer, all share one thing: old age in a society where, for the first time, an individual can fully expect to ""see his time out."" For some, the end won't come soon enough: ""I'll tell you what I really want to know,"" says one, ""I want to know how one gets off the hook."" Most don't fear old age (compared to earlier deprivations, current living standards make life surprisingly sweet): they fear senility and separation from life's flow. ""Doctor, don't let me become a cabbage. . . I don't mind what happens to me now so long as I don't become a cabbage."" Few cabbages here, however. Take the shepherd's widow, asked what it feels like to be nearing 100, ""Well, you wake up in the morning, you say to yourself, 'What, still here?' And then you make the tea."" Or the hill farmer's wife: ""I love lightness. . . . I love the artistry of life."" Or the WW I lieutenant who, still in pain from old war wounds, recites poetry to get to sleep. The old, Blythe tells us, do a lot of looking. They ""become their own novelists when they fall into abstract street-watching."" They look at each other (""I thought I'd come and give you a look""), at the sea, and (increasingly) at the ""telly."" Most desire more agedness ""but not a full repeat trip."" These interviews reinforce Blythe's view that a certain ""primal vitality"" and ""recollective strength"" can indeed nourish us in old age. Like Akenfield, this is a full and tender portrait. It is also strangely comforting.

Pub Date: Oct. 17th, 1979
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich