Thursday, April 24, 2014

Middle Age: A Romance

Middle Age: A Romance is a 2001 Joyce Carol Oates book, her 29th novel.

Do all books center on death and loss, or does it just feel that way to me these days? In this book, members of this man's social circle react differently to his death.

from the back of the book:
In Salthill-on-Hudson, a half-hour train ride from Manhattan, everyone is rich, beautiful, and -though they look much younger- middle-aged. But when Adam Berendt, a charismatic, mysterious sculptor, dies suddenly in a brash act of heroism, shock waves rock the town. But who was Adam Berendt? Was he in fact a hero, or someone more flawed and human?
favorite quotes:
The philosopher is one who practices dying, practices death, continuously, but no one sees it.
It is trifles that constitute our lives. It is trifles that kill us.
...questions involving the obvious are the hardest to answer.
Books that are mentioned as having been read by the main character: Lucretius' On the Nature of Things, Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Whitman's Leaves of Grass

Kirkus Reviews says, "Middle Age has its moments, but it’s basically redundant and shapeless". The Guardian calls Oates "a massive literary heavyweight". The Christian Science Monitor describes the book this way: ""Middle Age" isn't a romance in the sense of a love story [I find it sad that a reviewer has to actually say this]. What Oates romanticizes -to an absurd degree- is her deceased hero, Adam Berendt, a reclusive, one-eyed sculptor and disciple of Socrates who lived for Art and Beauty and questioned everything else." The Barcelona Review says,
We may laugh at some of the characters in their misguided search for love and self-knowledge - and laugh we do - but Oates makes us care about them, too. The novel succeeds in giving us a memorable cast of "youthful" middle-aged characters from upper-class suburbia doing the best they can.
There is a reading group guide here.


  1. I read this in a reading group a few years back. I remember a woman living in the woods and a dog accident, but not much more. I find that people either really love Oates or don´t care much for her at all. She keeps being mentioned for the Nobel Prize, but it would surprise me if the Academy seriously considers her. I think "Blonde" is probably the best of hers I have read, but again, I can only remember a few scenes from it.

    1. i think this is the 1st of her books i've read. i used to have several of them but gave them away after years of always choosing something else. i liked this one just fine, but not enough to look for more by this author at this point.