Sister Age

by M. F. K. Fisher

Paperback, 1983




New York : Vintage Books, 1984, c1983.


"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. teeter's tomato jar -- a kitchen allegory -- a delayed meeting -- notes on a necessary pact.

User reviews

LibraryThing member pjpjx
"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.
LibraryThing member turtlesleap
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.… (more)
LibraryThing member bookcrazed
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.… (more)
LibraryThing member Laurenbdavis
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.
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LibraryThing member juniperSun
This is a curious mix of short stories. I had assumed, from the title, that it would reflect an acceptance of ageing especially for women. It seems, instead, Fisher gathered together 15 stories, purportedly which reflect her thoughts on growing older. Perhaps she didn't have quite enough to flesh out a book--towards the end the tales have more to do with the survival of the spirit after death, and delve into ghostly actions.
Her forward and afterward give her justification for the collection, the source of the title, and expands a bit more on her own views of growing older. It was my first book by this author. When I picked up the book I thought I knew her but had confused her name with that of M C Richards. Obviously a sign of my own ageing and memory slips.
Not bad, just not what I expected, and not enough depth for reflection to make me want to keep the book for re-reading.
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