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Sister Age by M.F.K. Fisher

Sister Age

by M.F.K. Fisher

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M.F.K. Fisher is best known for her splendid food memoirs - The Art of Eating, The Gastronomical Me, Two Towns in Provence, How to Cook a Wolf, Consider the Oyster... and more. They are all delightful -- smart and funny and thought-provoking and about far more than food. Far more. 'When I write of hunger,' she explained in a foreword to 'The Gastronomical Me,' 'I am really writing about love and the hunger for it.' A moral writer, she is full of philosophy, history and sly wit.

And so it was with great interest that I picked up her book about aging, and I wasn't disappointed. These are stories, with a couple of memoir essays, about how to get old, and what it means to get old, and what one experiences in that country. She's a fascinating writer, in that her fiction reads like memoir and her memoir like fiction. An early genre-bender, if you will.

But of course, Fisher being Fisher, it is about age, yes, but so much more. Memory. Place. Death. Wonder. France. War. Suffering. And rats (I'll let you discover them for yourself).

She says here, 'I have spent my life in a painstaking effort to tell about things as they are to me, so that they will not sound like autobiography but simply like notes, like factual reports.' A photo she found in a second-hand store of an old and "monkey-ugly" become the talisman she hangs over her writing desk, her companion into the exploration. It's intriguing and deeply human.

The book is not perfect -- a couple of the stories seem light-weight and some purists might not like her more fantastical stories, although I did, very much. In their imagery she reaches out to understand, and to express, what is essentially mysterious, and I felt the rustle of recognition on a deep level, which is a testament to her art.

Loneliness and regret touch many of the characters, and Fisher seems to be wrestling with how we make peace with the things we have done and the things we have left undone. From the vantage point of age, we remain ourselves, still hungry for love. The difference might be, however, where we find it. ( )
  Laurenbdavis | Apr 22, 2014 |
Fisher is exploring aging, not from the standpoint of one who is facing it, but from the view of a woman in her 70s. This collection of stories is a mix of fact and fiction, short stories and short essays from her personal experience. Having read about but not having read any of Fisher's previous books, I looked forward to this reading. Her original metaphors tickle my writer's fancy: "her firm, rounded old face as impassive as a postcard of Krishna" and "as untroubled as a dot of plankton." In 1936 in Zurich Fisher bought an old oil painting of a woman she dubbed Sister Age. "I was going to write about growing old. . . . I was going to learn from the picture. . . . I planned to think and study about the art of aging for several years, and then tell how to learn and practice it." This volume, written when she was in her 70s, is the only effort she ever made to fulfill that ambition. She makes no direct statement about aging except in her Afterword, and there the valiantly borne disappointment is clearly stated: "Our housing is to blame," she said from her loneliness and separation from her children and grandchildren, blaming high-rises, cost of large homes, and the socioeconomic events that caused these phenomena for old people living alone, not being touched, not basking in the daily light of children's smiles. Fisher's stories delight and baffle from time to time, and her view of old age as a lonely time when one has to halfheartedly figure out what to do with one's time and search for ways to spend one's resources travel from page to lonely page. It was rather like a black comedy without a punch line. ( )
  bookcrazed | Feb 24, 2012 |
"Tim was to die a few years later, except in my heart, and Zurich was a cold secret city in Switzerland in 1936, and probably still is." This sentence by itself makes it a book worth noting. ( )
1 vote pjpjx | Oct 28, 2010 |
Sister Age is an anthology of short stories, most previously published in the 1960's in "literary" magazines, that deal with the subject of aging. The stories reflect an era, and a social dynamic, that has disappeared from the American scene but Fisher's thoughts and examination of the aging process remain insightful 40 years later. ( )
  turtlesleap | Feb 22, 2009 |
1st ed. ( )
  kitchengardenbooks | May 26, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0394723856, Paperback)

In these fifteen remarkable stories, M.F.K. Fisher, one of the most admired writers of our time, embraces age as St. Francis welcomed Brother Pain. With a saint to guide us, she writes in her Foreword, perhaps we can accept in a loving way "the inevitable visits of a possibly nagging harpy like Sister Age" But in the stories, it is the human strength in the unavoidable encounter with the end of life that Mrs. Fisher dramatizes so powerfully. Other themes -- the importance of witnessing death, the marvelous resilience of the old, the passing of vanity -- are all explored with insight, sympathy and, often, a sly wit.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:27 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Moment of wisdom - Answer in the affirmative - The weather within - The unswept emptiness - Another love story - The second time around - The lost, strayed, stolen - The reunion - The oldest man - A question answered - Diplomatic, retired - Mrs Teeters' tomato jar - A kitchen allegory - A delayed meeting - Notes on a necessary pact.… (more)

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