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Shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Non-Fiction as well as a finalist for the RBC Taylor Prize, Sixty is a wickedly honest and brutally funny account of the year in which Ian Brown truly realized that the man in the mirror was...sixty. By the author of the multiple award-winning The Boy in the Moon.
Sixty is a report from the front, a dispatch from the Maginot Line that divides the middle-aged from the soon to be elderly. As Ian writes, "It is the age when the body begins to dominate the mind, or vice versa, when time begins to disappear and loom, but never in a good way, when you have no choice but to admit that people have stopped looking your way, and that in fact they stopped twenty years ago."
Ian began keeping a diary with a Facebook post on the morning of February 4, 2014, his sixtieth birthday. As well as keeping a running tally on how he survived the year, Ian explored what being sixty means physically, psychologically and intellectually. "What pleasures are gone forever? Which ones, if any, are left? What did Beethoven, or Schubert, or Jagger, or Henry Moore, or Lucien Freud do after they turned sixty?" And most importantly, "How much life can you live in the fourth quarter, not knowing when the game might end?"
With formidable candour, he tries to answer this question: "Does aging and elderliness deserve to be dreaded--and how much of that dread can be held at bay by a reasonable human being?" For that matter, for a man of sixty, what even constitutes reasonableness?
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IAN BROWN is an author and a feature writer for the Globe and Mail whose work has won many National Magazine and National Newspaper awards. His most recent book, The Boy in the Moon: A Father's Search for His Disabled Son, was a national bestseller and a New York Times and Globe and Mail Best Book. It was also the winner of the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction, the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction and the Trillium Book Award. His previous books includeFreewheeling, which won the National Business Book Award, and the provocative examination of modern masculinity, Man Overboard. He lives in Toronto.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
February 4, 2014
I’m sixty today. My Facebook page (Facebook is celebrating its tenth anniversary) is full of kind wishes from Facebook friends, that is, from people I know, sometimes well, but also from people I don’t know at all. I’m not sure how I feel about Facebook friends, but thank you all for the birthday wishes. I begin my sixty-first year underslept, with a brewing chest infection, and to be frank I am not looking forward to the day—standing as I am on the threshold of the no man’s land beyond sixty. Sixty! I mean—if you’ll pardon the expression—fuck me dead! How did I get to be this old? The answer is by not paying attention.
Downstairs, I discover that Johanna, my wife, has left a card on the kitchen table. It contains two photographs of me walking my daughter, Hayley, in her stroller in Los Angeles, when Hayley was an infant and I was . . . thirty-nine? Forty? And of course, we all know what that looks like: it looks thinner. Your hair is ill-advised, but you have so much more of it you don’t really care. At forty, I looked like someone who thought he was twenty-one.
And just like that, standing there in the darkened kitchen at sixty, having been that sort of person—the kind who thought he was twenty-one when he was forty—strikes me as a terrible error. O you fool, I think, you did not realize upon what quiet foot The End approacheth. (My mental cadence takes on the rhythms of the Book of Common Prayer when I get anxious.) I mean, it’s easy to forget, amid the pleasures and terrors and gentle draining sounds of everyday life, how it all goes by much too fast. Even if you pay attention all the time—and who, really, manages to do that?
And then, inevitably—this always happens—the litany of my failures rushes into the vacuum left by all that speeding time—except that now, at sixty, those failures seem especially irreversible: not enough money, no retirement possibilities, no lush vacation home, no fast cars, no novels or plays or Broadway musicals or HBO series written, the rest of the usual roster of regrets. As well as all the moments I could have been more human, and less afraid. And in the place of those lost accomplishments, there’s just the clock ticking on the wall, making its sound, which, as Tennessee Williams said, is loss, loss, loss.
This is the problem with turning sixty: it’s so goddamn melodramatic.
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