A miscellany of musings about aging, love, work, and wisdom.
Nevins (b. 1939), an acclaimed producer of TV documentaries who has won numerous Emmy, Peabody, and other awards, makes her literary debut with a collection of essays, poetry, and stories, often entertaining and, as she admits, “sometimes silly.” Frequently, her theme is the assault of aging, beginning with her decision to get a face- and eye-lift, at the age of 56. At the surgeon’s office, examining her face in a magnifying mirror, she was horrified: “I saw a wrinkled, witchlike, scrunched up, squashed face,” she recalls. Working in media, she believed she had to hide her age. “Nobody wanted advice from an old broad,” she writes. Her surgery, though, intensified her obsession with her looks. “I heard a metronome ticking in my head” that made her focus on every wrinkle, rushing to her dermatologist for every “new fix.” Nevins also spent huge amounts of money on her teeth. She wishes she could face aging gracefully, but being surrounded by pretty, bright, and slender young women makes her angry. Besides aging, dieting, Viagra, and menopause, the author records a conversation overheard on a train between two women, one of whom, it turns out, was having an affair with the other’s husband. “I wished John Updike was around to hear them,” Nevins remarks. Other pieces focus on family: her demanding, impatient mother, who had a form of Reynaud’s disease so severe that her forearm needed to be amputated; and her son, who slowly developed Tourette’s syndrome when he was 3. “Tourette’s,” Nevins writes, “would crush and stomp on all dreams of normalcy.” Nevins reflects candidly about her encounter with the anti-Semitic mother of a college boyfriend. “This mother deemed me unworthy,” she writes, but that woman became her “mentor” as she earned accolades and awards. “Every yes to me was a slap in her face.”
As in many collections, some of the pieces are disposable, but the best ones are honest, opinionated, and spirited.