After reading Diana Athill's fantastic 1962 memoir Instead of a Letter: A Memoir, I decided I would go back and re-read her memoir Somewhere Towards the End: A Memoir (which I had read at one point, but couldn't much remember, except thinking at the time that Athill was a spicy old broad whose honesty I really enjoyed).
I don't know that I enjoyed Somewhere Towards the End as much this time around. Whether this was because I wasn't in the right mood, or because I felt Instead of a Letter was so much more interesting, I'm not sure. But don't get me wrong: I still liked it. (So did RickLibrarian; you can read his review here.)
Athill wrote this memoir as she was heading into her nineties, and it's a somewhat free-associative tour through her love lives, personal relationships, work, and the aging process. I remain convinced that this is a woman I wish I could meet: unlike many who are described as "straight-shooters," I think Athill might actually be a genuine straight-shooter. Consider:
"Dwindling energy is one of the most boring things about being old. From time to time you get a day when it seems to be restored, and you can't help feeling that you are 'back to normal,' but it never lasts." (p. 132.)
I just like her matter-of-fact way of speaking. And, of course, Athill spent a lifetime and a career reading and working with books, so she has many interesting things to say on those subjects as well. Here was my favorite:
"I think that underneath, or alongside, a reader's conscious response to a text, whatever is needy in him is taking in whatever the text offers to assuage that need." (p. 49.)
That is awesome. Not sure which of Athill's other memoirs I'll read next, but I'll keep you posted.