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  • Review of Home by Marilynne Robinson

    HomeHome by Marilynne Robinson
    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    I loved Gilead by Marilynne Robinson so much. The review is here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/....

    But with Home, I had a different experience. I wasn't compelled through most of the book. At about the three-quarter mark, things started to happen and I felt my interest quicken. But here's a summary of my impressions, and my apologies to those who loved it so much they recommended it to me:

    1. I was disappointed to see this other, peevish, nasty side of Rev. Ames.
    2. I didn't like the Rev. Boughton very much at all.
    3. Jack is tedious and pathetic.
    4. Glory almost breaks free but then doesn't.

    Robinson really makes me wait for it, building my conflict between compassion and resentment for Jack. And just when I lose faith in him, there's a scene where the old misogynist/bigot Rev. Boughton asks to see Jack and his brother together in his room, and Jack insists Glory be included. As if he sees her as an equal to the men, rather than just the servant her father expects.

    In this, I felt Jack himself was a Rorschach test for the reader, in that while he seems almost feral, a man born without skin with which to hide himself from the world, easily wounded and always untrusting, you want to abandon him, but can you? If so, who are you? What are your values - what are your limits?

    So now Glory has decided to stop being codependent with her "fiancé", and switch her ministrations and self-sacrifice to her dying father and her feral brother. This is an arc? This is growth? What is Robinson's meaning, at the end of the story, when Glory decides to stay in a town she has said she hates, in a house she agrees to preserve as a monument/mausoleum to the family? It can only be read as failure to respect oneself in favor of service to others! This troubles me deeply.

    I apologize for the length of this next excerpt, but I have to reproduce it, because it's so telling:

    "(Glory) had tried to take care of (Jack), to help him, and from time to time he had let her believe she did. That old habit of hers, of making a kind of happiness for herself out of the thought that she could be his rescuer, when there was seldom much reason to believe that rescue would have any particular attraction for him. That old illusion that she could help her father with the grief Jack caused, the grief Jack was, when it was as far beyond her power to soothe or mitigate as the betrayal of Judas Iscariot. She had been alone with her parents when Jack left, and she had been alone with her father when he returned. There was a symmetry in that that might have seemed like design to her and beguiled her with the implication that their fates were indeed intertwined. Or returning herself to that silent house might simply have returned her to a s state of mind more appropriate to her adolescence. A lonely schoolgirl at thirty-eight. Now, there was a painful thought.

    "She recalled certain moments in which she could see that Jack had withdrawn from her and was looking through or beyond her, making some new appraisal of her trustworthiness, perhaps, or her usefulness, or simply and abruptly losing interest in her together with whatever else happened just then...She found no consistency in these moments, nothing she could interpret. He was himself. That is what their father had always said, and by it he had meant that Jack was jostled along in the stream of (the family's) vigor and purpose and their good intentions, their habits and certitudes, and was never really a part of any of it. He had eaten their food and slept beneath their roof, wearing the clothes and speaking the dialect of their slightly self-enamored and distinctly clerical family..."

    God! Who hasn't known people like this - men like this, children like this - who take and take and take from an ever-hopeful spouse or family and yet never seem quite able to be satisfied, or fulfilled, or happy! When all the sacrificial loving family member ever wants is for that feral person to be happy. Or at least safe.

    Like I said, Rorschach.

    And in this, I have to admit, Robinson delivers again, most profoundly, in pulling back the curtains and showing us, right down to the faint beat of a pulse along a pale wrist, the impact on a family of such a lone wolf. Not that the wolf doesn't suffer. Not that we don't all feel empathy as we struggle to surface from this mire, gulping and gasping air, sorry for Glory who remains below, yet intent on saving ourselves.

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  • Review of The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler

    The Beginner's GoodbyeThe Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    After reading some of the reviews, I felt a bit off-kilter, as if I'm seeing something that wasn't intended by the author.

    Nevertheless, here's my impression: this story is about a man who, because of his physical limitations, resists closeness with other people, to the point that he marries a woman who seems certain to want the same, arm's length relationship. It's only after she dies that he begins to sense that he was wrong about that. During the grieving process, he comes to realize he's been living an arm's-length life.

    I love stories about people who come out of a fog and change their lives, empowered by the realization that they've been missing something important - that their reasoning was flawed, but it doesn't have to remain that way. And Anne Tyler is such a great wordsmith, anything she writes is wonderful. This book is perhaps a bit too subtle to win the raving applause it deserves.

    View all my reviews

  • Review of Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

    Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to LeadLean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    As I read Lean In, I was intrigued at being able to get inside the head of a dynamic, smart woman who is one generation younger than me, and see the corporate world through her eyes. One of the cultural questions she answered for me was this: why are younger women so averse to the terms "feminist" and "feminism"? Apparently, Sheryl Sandberg and her contemporaries believe(d) the following:

    1. Equality having arrived, there's no need for feminism anymore
    2. Feminists are man-haters who resist makeup and the shaving of one's legs

    Okay, #2 was a bit tongue-in-cheek. However, having observed conditions in the real world for a few years now, Sandberg has come to see that the playing field is not and will not be level until more women occupy positions of power in the corporate hierarchy. She doesn't suggest that this is due to any malicious intent on the part of men, but rather it's simply a matter of ignorance.

    To illustrate, she describes having to park far away from her office door when hugely and uncomfortably pregnant. When she designated preferred parking spots to accommodate pregnant workers, no one complained. It was seen as logical. But prior to her taking her place in the C-suite, the issue hadn't been raised.

    Sandberg talks about not slowing down out of consideration for what might happen in the nebulous future. The example she gives, now famous, is of a young woman confiding her fears of not wanting to accept a job with a lot of responsibility due to the impact it might have on her family. The woman was planning ahead - she didn't even have a boyfriend yet.

    With this example, Sandberg makes the point that women, having been highly trained and educated, are waving off promotional opportunities. The jury is still out as to why, but she suggests, and I agree, that part of the reason is this: in corporate America, a woman's decision to go through pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, and child-rearing is viewed as a private matter that should not impact her ability to work long hours and irregular schedules, including lengthy and frequent travel as needed. Rightly fearing this may drive her insane, a woman who wants a family may leap off the corporate ladder at a very early stage.

    Sandberg argues that if a young woman stayed on it long enough to secure a more powerful position, she would be able to exert more control over her work life (a perspective the young woman must trust will happen, since at her current low place on the corporate ladder she can only see her lack of power and control.) After a few promotions, she will be able to delegate some of her work to subordinates, afford more help at home, and influence workplace policies that unfairly impact women and families. Who can find fault with this argument?

    Sandberg is honest about her own mistakes, and I found that charming. For example, I was amazed that, for all her intelligence and education, she didn't originally intend to negotiate her starting salary with Facebook. Luckily a nice man (her husband) set her straight, and she made a counter offer to Zuckerberg. Reams of guidance have been written about how this error could have impeded her in later years, both at Facebook and with future employers, yet she didn't know. For other women who have not yet made this horrifying discovery, please read Ask for It by Babcock and Laschever (http://www.amazon.com/Ask-Women-Power...) which in addition to being enlightening and entertaining, offers tons of strategies for preparing yourself to negotiate. And not just for salaries. After reading that book I saved $150 on furniture I was going to buy anyway, by asking one question.

    But back to Lean In.

    I was also surprised that she wasn't well informed about how women can sabotage other women in the workplace, particularly women in power. This is an unfortunate truth with roots in biology, and is brilliantly explained in the amazing book, In the Company of Women by Heim and Murphy (http://www.amazon.com/Company-Women-I...) which I reviewed here:
    http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... This also suggests the reasons Sandberg was hit with such a backlash for the well-intentioned Lean In.

    There is so much more to say about Lean In, but let me close with this: I enjoyed learning how this stellar corporate executive struggled, made mistakes, and ultimately learned some strategies that will enable her, her family, and the women (and men) in her corporation to thrive. It's not perfect, and sometimes it's not even pretty, but part of the lesson is to let go of the need for perfection.

    The other message, younger women, is to get as far and as fast as you can before starting your families. Don't opt out just because it looks too hard from where you're sitting now. The view improves with each rung on the ladder.

    View all my reviews

Tommy Hilfiger Sounds Ageist

In this week’s Time Magazine, designer Tommy Hilfiger says he doesn’t like to see people wearing floral prints.

I think they really don’t have great taste. Why would you want to wear a print you see on a bedspread or wallpaper in an older person’s home?


Tommy, Tommy, Tommy. Why would you disrespect a whole group of people based on nothing but age? That’s textbook ageism, my friend, and at sixty-one you should know better. Think I’m overreacting? Try this: why don’t you repeat that sentence but instead of older, use the adjective black. How does that look?

If it’s not okay the one way, it’s not okay the other, Tommy. I will assume you’re a nice guy and didn’t mean it, and if so, that makes my point: we’re so comfortable insulting people based on age that we don’t hear ourselves. It’s not intentional or conscious, just an easy stereotype to slip into. So next time, try to be a little more careful, won’t you? Maybe, in so doing, you can set an example for the rest of the world.

Leave a comment


  1. Couldn’t agree more…there’s an irony in all of it though – creating clothes for a population that he is removed from by at least a generation if not two – leaves him clueless about his own cohort group. Denial perhaps? 😉

  2. You make an excellent point. We’ve, as in ‘culture’, have found older people an acceptable target for derision. So glad you called him out in that way!

  3. Snoring Dog Studio

     /  February 11, 2014

    Yes, that was ageist. And utterly ignorant and inconsiderate. I won’t wait for the superficial apology from him.

    • It was ignorant…I assume he’s a decent person who wasn’t thinking. But that’s my point – we wound the old with our unconscionably ignorant comments and behavior, again, again, again. He is the example of a culture that needs to grow the hell up.

  4. Great call out Lynne. And I think you are right, it’s one of those things that we don’t even think about. I hope he sees this….. I don’t really think an apology is needed but it would be good food for thought for him and for all of us.

  5. Humor_Me_Now

     /  February 11, 2014

    I am thrilled to be 80 years old. My wife is very unthrilled about aging—she is super sensitive about it. She would blow a gasket at this kind of age remark. My wife is also very aware of age discrimination.

    I am just happy to be 80. lol I am the only male on my dad’s side of the family to live past 71.

    I sure see your point.

    • Congrats on getting to 80 and being healthy enough to think, write, and be in a relationship. It’s no small thing. Life can be cruel. We have to appreciate stuff. I don’t want to get old for the reason that it’s hard on us, and gets us closer to death. But I’d rather be old than “not here,” which I’ve come close to a few times. Almost died in a car wreck the last week before summer break when I was a junior in high school. And then there was that perforated appendix…etc. So I agree with you…just happy to be here!

  6. Uh-uh. Bad Tommy.

  7. Get ’em, Lynne! Tommy should be more careful with his words. He’s sixty-one, for Pete’s sake — what part of “older person” does he NOT think he is?!!

  8. ?? He can’t see all those wrinkles in the mirror . . . but he can see a few flowers on somebody’s pants?? And REALLY Tommy . . . didn’t your mommy teach you manners?
    Good going Lynne!

  9. Madeleine

     /  February 11, 2014

    Good call, Lynne. And while we’re talking about clothing and design, where are the clothes for classy “older” women these days? Who’s designing those?

    • There are probably some…but this too has been an issue for the longest time. I’ve been happy with Chicos for winter or fancy, Fresh Produce for summer/casual, and NYDJeans.

  10. Cynthia

     /  February 11, 2014

    As far as I’m concerned, TH has no clue about clothes or personal behavior. Several years ago, he docked his massive yacht here in Savannah. From what I heard, he didn’t realize that to a 20 something woman, he was an “older” man. It was all over town that he behaved rather foolishly. Personally, I would never wear his clothes. They’re boring to look at and I don’t find it “cool” to wear clothes with his name on them. So his statement is a joke to me and I doubt that he has much taste. However Lynne, I’m glad you have called him and others out on ageist remarks. There are so many people 60 plus who are intelligent, competent and graceful…and then there’s TH. Enjoy your blog very much!

  11. This really hit me funny – at Christmas I got my daughter (age 39) a floral jacket with a diagonal zipper up the front. She looked like a Martha Stewart biker. We as a family always “love” whatever each other gets us, but when she opened the box, she said, “Oh, it’s floral.” Well what do I know about what’s in? I’m so sick of seeing ALL women in black, solid, stripe, print Black, black, black. Come on ladies show a little creativity. Personally I’ll be thrilled when florals are back in. For me, they never went out. And to Tommy Hilfiger – ph-h-f-f-f-t-t-t!!

    • Mar, I didn’t get the memo either! So I guess I’m out of style. Whatever that is – because I just try to please myself, mainly. I’m wearing faded jeans and a zip-front pink golf shirt as we speak. But you know how they say women our age are invisible? What a blessing. They don’t have to look at us if it bums them out so much.

  12. Lisa Wild Child

     /  February 11, 2014

    I was sitting on a curb with my large bag of organic groceries waiting for a cab in San Miguel de Allende today wearing a floral turquoise/orchid skirt and an orchid blouse. Something I’ve had for years and loved the design. Two Americans walked by laughing out loud as they complimented my colors. I actually said,”I’ve been wearing gray all week and this morning I decided on something more cheery.” They howled with laughter. These well dressed people (wearing beige and gray) must certainly have read the Hillfiger article, while I did not. Worth a giggle!!!

    • Lisa, I have to say that your comment is the most colorful and vibrant of all the wonderful communing I’ve enjoyed here today. My second thought was, it’s so flippin’ cultural. In the US, we make fun of old people. In certain Asian countries, they revere us. In the US, Tommy H says florals are an embarrassment. In San Miguel de Allende, it’s the epitome of fashion. I am in your debt.

    • Good for you for absorbing their hurtful actions instead of reflecting them and sending something smartass back to them. That really takes the wind out of their sails. Learned this from Seven Habits of Successful People (or something to that effect).

  13. Designers make clothes that look best on young, tall, skinny women, and then slam older women! I think that is a prejudice in the industry. If we ‘over sixties’ wore some of the designs created by them we’d be called eccentric and worse. There is nothing wrong with wearing florals if it makes you feel good.

  14. AMEN!!! I don’t understand why people think it is okay to disrespect people due to their age or weight. NOT OKAY!!! He should know better. I love that I can wear whatever I want and not care if Tommy or anyone else likes it.

  15. Pennie

     /  February 13, 2014

    LOVED this post! Having come from the world of the morbidly obese, I always said that obesity was the last safe prejudice – meaning that while it is no longer politically correct to judge and have fun at the expense of blacks, native americans, Pollocks, etc it is still o.k. to make fun of those dealing with obesity. As we start to deal with the nations growing obesity problem, it is becoming less of a “safe prejudice”. As the population gets older and older, let hope the ageism becomes takes the same track!

    • Pennie, I agree. Goodbye to “safe prejudice.” I think as a country we’re moving forward, learning together. Things that were once thought to be just the way things were done (e.g. sexual harassment) are seen differently now. Makes me happy.

  16. createsoullife

     /  February 16, 2014

    and, to think that just yesterday I saw this great pair of floral pants that I thought I’d consider! So glad I have my own voice and dress like I want! Thanks Lynne for reminding us to be aware of what is written and said out loud by those we would assume might have some sensitivity.

  17. Pat

     /  February 17, 2014

    Shame on Tommy and good for you, Lynne, calling him on this!

  18. greengurl

     /  April 9, 2014

    Be sure to send this to Tommy directly. He should know better.

  19. greengurl

     /  April 9, 2014

    The other ignorant part of it is that patterns on wallpaper or bedding are part of “textiles.” How can he not know that, working in a “sewing industry.”


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  • Lynne Spreen

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    Lynne Spreen's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)
  • Review of Private Life by Jane Smiley

    Private LifePrivate Life by Jane Smiley
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    Maybe this book is better than my capacity to appreciate. I don't tend toward writing that is obscure, or dense (or makes me feel dense). However, sometimes it's better to roll along with the storytelling and let the deeper meaning work its way up from subconscious to conscious.

    The ending of this book is extremely powerful. Margaret, due to the traumatic incident that happened when she was five, lived in a fog her entire life, married to a wacko genius, and not waking up until she was in her sixties and everything/everyone is sad and tired. Yet she seems to catch fire, fueled by bitterness, in the very last 3 sentences of the epilogue. It was a long time to wait for the enlightenment.

    I gave the book 3 stars because there's too much backstory too soon, making it hard for me to develop an interest. Once there, I felt frustrated at the repetitious nature of Margaret's obtuseness, even though she's a bright woman, and her deferring to Andrew, even though this is what people - women especially - do.

    It went on for her whole life! That she was living in a cloud due to, I believe, the trauma of the childhood incident, and that she was ill served by those around her, didn't make it any easier to like this story. I know Smiley is a master writer, and I feel like a goof not giving her a better rating, but this is my honest reaction.

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  • Review of Up At The Villa by Somerset Maugham

    Up at the VillaUp at the Villa by W. Somerset Maugham
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    Very much enjoyed this short book, which I read in one night. The settings are lush, dialogue snappy, and the characters realistic and strong. The plot and writing are compelling. I enjoyed it because a theme might be, "people are not what they appear to be." A character acts one way and you think, okay, he's good and upstanding. And maybe he IS, but the "why" of it is enlightening. Maugham is a respected author for a reason. What talent! A very good story.

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  • Review of Benediction by Kent Haruf

    BenedictionBenediction by Kent Haruf
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    Ever in search of stories about midlife and beyond, I set up a page on facebook (www.Facebook.com/midlife.fiction) and asked for suggestions. I got 38 great recommendations, and I hope to read and review every one of them. Herewith, then: Benediction by Kent Haruf. What a masterpiece.

    Benediction centers around an elderly man who is dying, but the story encompasses many rich characters, and their small stories touched me. In fact, I think this is what made the book so special for me: I saw a little bit of myself in each of them. Each one resonated. I felt again what it was like to be a lost little girl, a lonely divorcee, a misunderstood introspective, a grieving wife, a person who is coping with serious illness. I longed for the small-town atmosphere described here (the Fourth of July fireworks over the high school football field is a stellar short story all by itself.)

    Although the central character is dying, the book is not negative. Far from it - Benediction reflects on the everyday goodness (and tawdriness) of people. His characters are beset by the normal difficulties of life yet buoyed by simple beauties and kindnesses.

    Yet, nothing in Haruf's writing is overly dramatic or in the least saccharine. In fact, that's one of the aspects of Benediction I enjoyed the most: being surprised by tears on the completion of a plainly-written paragraph, phrase or description.

    I couldn't stop reading excerpts to my husband, since he also loves beautifully crafted writing. This book put me in mind of Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. If I could describe it in one word, it would be "elegiac."

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Examining experiences and exploring possibilities

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Helping each other master the art of a senior life.

How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks

self-publishing tips for authors

Waiting for the Karma Truck

thoughts on the spaces in between

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Navigating the Third Half of Life

Memoir Writer's Journey

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