Synopses & Reviews
Armed with recent medical evidence that supports the cliche that older people are, indeed, wiser, Alford sets off to interview people over 70 some famous (Phyllis Diller, Harold Bloom, Edward Albee), some accomplished (the world's most-quoted author, a woman who walked across the country at age 89 in support of campaign finance reform), some unusual (a pastor who thinks napping is a form of prayer, a retired aerospace engineer who eats food out of the garbage.) Early on in the process, Alford interviews his 79 year-old mother and step-father, and inadvertently changes the course of their 36 year-long union. Part family memoir, part Studs Terkel, How To Live considers some unusual sources deathbed confessions, late-in-life journals to deliver a highly optimistic look at our dying days. By showing that life after 70 is the fulfillment of, not the end to, life's questions and trials, How to Live delivers that most unexpected punch: it makes you actually 'want to get old.'
"Alford (Big Kiss) recognizes that the elderly have been through more in their lives than the rest of us, and figures it might be a good idea to talk to some of them and see if they have any meaningful advice to impart. This plan sets off a prolonged meditation: what is wisdom, anyway? Some of his interview subjects are famous, like playwright Edward Albee or literary critic Harold Bloom but it's the less recognized figures who consistently provide Alford with the most evocative source material, like the retired schoolteacher who lost her husband, her home and all her possessions in Hurricane Katrina but refuses to feel sorry for herself. The search is not all rosy: shortly after Alford's interview with his stepfather, he loses his sobriety and the author becomes a sideline observer as his mother initiates divorce proceedings and moves into a retirement home. Such scenarios depart from the laugh-out-loud stories for which Alford is best known, but there are still enough moments of rich humor, like the guided tour of Sylvia Miles's cluttered apartment, for longtime fans of Alford." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Taking a lighthearted approach, Alford discovers that wisdom is a process rather than a fixed point. Bumpy but rich with surprises." Kirkus Reviews
In this witty guide for seekers of all ages, Alford searches for instant enlightenment through conversations with those who have lived long and lived well.
About the Author
Henry Alford is the author of two acclaimed works of investigative humor Big Kiss: One Actor's Desperate Attempt to Claw His Way to the Top and Municipal Bondage: One Man's Anxiety-Producing Adventures in the Big City. He has been a regular contributor to the New York Times and Vanity Fair, and a staff writer at Spy. He has also written for the New Yorker, GQ, New York, Details, Harper's Bazaar, Travel & Leisure, the Village Voice, and Paris Review.