Nonagenarian autobiographies

Ruth Gruber, woman of letters, tells her own story.
The Truro Daily News

Witness: One of the Great Correspondents of the 20th Century Tells Her Story by Ruth Gruber

With her perfect memory (and plenty of zip), 95-year-old Ruth Gruber – adventurer, international correspondent, photographer, maker of (and witness to) history, responsible for rescuing hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees during the Second War II and after – tells her story in her own words and photographs.

Gruber’s life has been extraordinary and extraordinarily heroic. She received a B.A. from New York University in three years, a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin a year later, and a Ph.D. from the University of Cologne (magna cum laude) one year after that, becoming at age 20 the youngest Ph.D. in the world (it made headlines in The New York Times; the subject of her thesis: the then little-known Virginia Woolf).

At 24, Gruber became an international correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune and travelled across the Soviet Arctic, scooping the world and witnessing, firsthand, the building of cities in the Siberian gulag by the pioneers and prisoners Stalin didn’t execute … and when she was 33, Ickes assigned another secret mission to her – one that transformed her life: Gruber escorted 1,000 Holocaust survivors from Italy to America, the only Jews given refuge in this country during the war. […]

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Somewhere Towards the End by Diana Athill 192pp, Granta Books, £12.99

http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,,2239306,00.html
It’s a relief to find an amusing look at getting old, says Katharine Whitehorn
Saturday January 12, 2008, The Guardian

Diana Athill is 90 and has almost no regrets, despite having lived a life which most women of her class and era might have thought regrettable in the extreme.

And she still thinks so; that’s the joy of it. Although she sees with grim clarity the drawbacks and horrors of old age, illness, death, what comes across most is her acceptance and interested curiosity about the condition. She knows she has to be a carer for Barry, who has become diabetic and has other health problems and won’t control his diet. She dislikes being a carer very much and grumpily asks herself: “If a life so severely diminished is shortened by eating doughnuts what will it matter?” But she accepts it.

From The Times, January 11, 2008
Reflections on the gravity of growing older, Jane Shilling
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/jane_shilling/article3166519.ece
I’ve just been reading Somewhere Towards the End, Diana Athill’s memoir of old age

From The Times, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article3168331.ece

January 11, 2008
Sleepwalking into a crabbit old age– What are we doing introducing more health screening to allow us to live even longer? Valerie Grove

As Jane Shilling wrote, reviewing Somewhere Towards the End, by 90-year-old Diana Athill, Athill is cheered that women in her family “make old bones and good deaths”. But there is a chilly coda to this. Athill looked after her own dying mother.

…Athill has observed that good deaths tend to require the presence not merely of the principal actor, who is too busy dying to take charge of the manner of his or her demise, but also a producer and director, in the person of a daughter.

“But I have no daughter… And I haven’t got the money to pay for care of any kind. If I don’t have the luck to fall down dead while still able-bodied, it will be the geriatric ward for me.”

Even her redoubtable mind shrinks from this. “Fortunately, if a prospect is bleak enough, the mind jibs at dwelling on it,” she stoically adds.

We all jib at it: but for most the geriatric ward is the reality,

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2008/01/11/boath106.xml

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