LATE-LIFE LOVE by Susan Gubar

LATE-LIFE LOVE

A Memoir
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A deeply personal and bittersweet paean to love “immune to the vicissitude of time.”

Feminist scholar Gubar’s (Emeritus, English/Indiana Univ.; Reading and Writing Cancer: How Words Heal, 2016, etc.) memoir could be read as the third in a trilogy of books she’s recently written exploring her fight against cancer and the roles art and love play in the battle. Her husband, Don, 17 years older than she and suffering from injuries and age-related problems, figured in earlier books, but he’s front and center here. Complicating their time together was the difficult decision to leave their large house, Inverness, for an apartment. She borrows a term from Joyce Carol Oates, “bibliomemoir,” to describe her quest to find “honest portraits” from fiction, poems, plays, and films that deal with the “tensions, tussles, and triumphs of my own later-life love affair.” Gubar “integrate[s] literary interpretation with personal reflection” to fashion a “resounding retort to overwhelmingly negative valuations of aging.” She sets off “searching for trail markings on an uncleared path” with Jenny Diski’s “comedy of bad manners,” Happily Ever After, and then discovers Helen Simonson’s “sparkling” novel about loss, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, which drew her into a “world unlike my own.” Gubar also discusses Samuel Beckett’s “unexpectedly funny” play Happy Days, a “geriatric farce intriguing in its portrayal of a later-life love affair like no other.” Gabriel García Márquez’s “sprawling” Love in the Time of Cholera hits the “grand slam of late-life love tradition” with its portrait of love as “both a sickness and an anodyne.” Offering particular support were poet and translator Jane Kenyon, Donald Hall’s poems about his ill wife, and Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead and Lila, which cost Gubar “half a box of tissues.”

In a book filled with wit, candor, and poignancy, the author concludes, “late-life love may heat at a lower temperature, but it bubbles and rises.”

Pub Date: Nov. 13th, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-393-60957-8
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2018




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