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LOSING IT by William Ian Miller

LOSING IT

In Which an Aging Professor Laments His Shrinking Brain...

By William Ian Miller

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-300-17101-3
Publisher: Yale Univ.

Miller (Univ. of Michigan Law School; Eye for an Eye, 2005, etc.) makes the case that old age is indeed a bummer.

Following on his previous examinations of the human condition, Humiliation (1993) and The Anatomy of Disgust (1997), the author’s disdain for protestations that with age comes wisdom and greater happiness is understandable if not necessarily appealing. He addresses himself particularly to those who do not “suffer from incurable positive thinking and its attendant imbecility” and expresses contempt for “so-called positive psychology.” The author, now in his mid 60s, gives an admittedly exaggerated account of his own slowing down, memory loss and distractibility with what some readers may find distressing detail, but he includes some great quips along with his grumpy complaints. Describing what he means by “losing it” with the onset of old age, he writes that “the process of losing it [is] more drawn out ... [than losing] a cell phone or virginity, each of which can be lost in mere seconds of thoughtfulness.” In his opinion, research claiming that old folks are happier as they age simply corroborates his theory that the elderly have lost the capacity to judge. Making a minor concession, he suggests that perhaps “the modest pleasure…of having gotten through it all [can be] akin to the pleasure of no longer banging your head against the wall.”

A nice combination of acerbic wit and erudition—the perfect complement to Susan Jacoby’s Never Say Die (2011).