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.
The book is published by Yale University Press.
The title leads you to believe that Miller will be giving his personal experience of aging. But there's very little in the book about that. Miller is a scholar and historian, and devotes the bulk of the book to analyzing classical and ancient texts (including the Bible and Norse tales). And he by no means restricts himself to the subject of aging. He talks about whatever issues are raised by the texts he's interested in: blood feuds, the collection of debts, etc.
Early in the book Miller half-seriously jokes about his own ADD and his tendency to follow the thread of whatever interests him. But once you've followed this meadering book for a couple of hours, the joke doesn't feel so funny anymore.