In Which an Aging Professor Laments His Shrinking Brain, Which He Flatters Himself Formerly Did Him Noble Service: A P
Yale University Press, Hardcover, 9780300171013, 328pp.
Publication Date: October 25, 2011
In "Losing It, " William Ian Miller brings his inimitable wit and learning to the subject of growing old: "too old to matter, of either rightly losing your confidence or wrongly maintaining it, culpably refusing to face the fact that you are losing it." The it in Miller's losing it refers mainly to mental faculties memory, processing speed, sensory acuity, the capacity to focus. But it includes other evidence as well sags and flaccidities, aches and pains, failing joints and organs. What are we to make of these tell-tale signs? Does growing old gracefully mean more than simply refusing unseemly cosmetic surgeries? How do we face decline and the final drawing of the blinds? Will we know if and when we have lingered too long?
Drawing on a lifetime of deep study and anxious observation, Miller enlists the wisdom of the ancients to confront these vexed questions head on. Debunking the glossy new image of old age that has accompanied the graying of the Baby Boomers, he conjures a lost world of aging rituals complaints, taking to bed, resentments of one's heirs, schemes for taking it with you or settling up accounts and scores to remind us of the ongoing dilemmas of old age. Darkly intelligent and sublimely written, this exhilarating and eccentric book will raise the spirits of readers, young and old.
“Beautifully written, original, deeply insightful, often laugh-out-loud witty, and on not a few occasions (despite the author''s curmudgeonly persona) moving and affecting book.”—Andrew Stark, Professor of Strategic Management, the University of Toronto
"Nobody lives history like Bill Miller. The rest of us may enjoy reading about the Middle Ages. Miller suffers through them, and in reporting on his experiences, he gives us autobiography that ranks with the greats."—James Whitman, Yale Law School
"Blackly funny and wonderfully thought-provoking…A raging screed directed less against the dying of the light than against any denial that the lamps—his, mine, yours—are indeed dimming all the time.”—Brian Bethune, Maclean''s
"[Miller] is witty and intimidatingly well-read . . . His shtick is so marvelously entertaining that you''re willing to listen to what is—by his own admission—a grumpy diatribe over all that''s lost by the relentless ticktock."—Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune
"Miller takes target at the inevitable aging process, and finds much more humor than might be expected . . . Readers may turn to the book for contemplation or a much-needed laugh as they themselves continue the unavoidable journey."—Publishers Weekly
"Miller can grouse and chide with the best, but not all is grim modern comedy. With equal facility, he brings a seriously learned and entertaining hand to the project of growing old in earlier times. . . Everywhere here is the twinkle in Miller''s eye. He is having a high and fine old time, and so are we. Old age has become a rueful burlesque, and Miller gives it a mordant poke with a sharpened stick, but he also makes us laugh."—Peter Lewis, Barnes and Noble Review
"A stylish, effortlessly erudite and refreshingly clear-eyed essay about the dastardly — yet inevitable — fate of getting older."—Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune, Best Books 2011
"[Miller''s] vigorous pessimism is strangely liberating. . . At times Miller''s determined miserabilism gets it so right that all one can do is sit back, revel in the shock of recognition, and laugh aloud."—Laurie Taylor, Times Higher Education Supplement
"The cumulative effect of such a tour of aging ought to be depressing, but it''s actually bracing. Trying to keep up with the sheer breadth of knowledge in Losing It and actually reading all the wonderful books Miller weaves into this strange, dark, intellectual kilim will keep you constructively engaged while you wait for science to throw up a wild card that might just delay, or even cancel, your own miserable end."—Liz Else, New Scientist CultureLab blog
"[Miller] is a prankster, a tease, an imp of the perverse, a digressor-transgressor. . .The claim could be made that not since Laurence Sterne''s great 18th-century joke of a novel, Tristram Shandy, has any book been so well-founded on the slippery rock of digression."—Henry Allen, Wall Street Journal
"The real point of Losing It is that it gives Mr. Miller an opportunity to play one joke after another on the reader, who can elect to be in on the joke or, possibly, throw the book across the room... On any given page you may find Mr. Miller taking you through Dostoyevsky''s Underground Man, Slavic word roots, television''s The Wire and of course his beloved Icelandic sagas."—Henry Allen, Wall Street Journal