His & Hers: Mid-Life Crisis

I just read two books that otherwise have nothing to do with one another, but after I read them I realized they both explored (in one way or another) a mid-life crisis.

cover of the ask by sam lipsyteSam Lipsyte’s deliriously funny The Ask is narrated by Milo Burke, a 30-something urban dweller with a wife and 3 ½ year old son who has just lost his job at a New York art college development office. Milo’s voice comes across like jacked up cynicism peppered with some pretty cringe-worthy fantasies and self-aggrandizement. He is such the archetype of the sad sack (who gets sacked and then re-instated when an old wealthy, well-connected friend pops up) that Lipsyte sees fit to include this scene between Milo and his co-worker, the unfortunately named, Vargina:

“I’m not very likeable, am I?”
“You’re likeable enough,” said Vargina.
“No, I mean, if I were the protagonist of a book or a movie, it would be hard to like me, to identify with me, right?”
“I would never read a book like that, Milo. I can’t think of anyone who would. There’s no reason for it.”

The Ask is one to read for the dialogue, not to mention the oh-so-funny-and-true parenting scenes. But at its heart there is a man unraveling who did not seem to realize he has been doing so for a very long time. There is something hyper-real yet gritty real about the journey this man goes on. There is also something very today about this edgy little tale of mid-life crisis and misadventures: there isn’t always a happy ending and no, you don’t always get your job back.

cover of love and biology at the center of the universe by jennie shortridgeThen I read Jennie Shortridge’s Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe. When Mira discovers that her husband has been having an emotional affair and then sees them together, she jumps in a car and leaves her tidy little life behind her. Mira winds up in a coffee shop in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood where she  has to figure out who she is now that she is in her 40s, not loved by her husband and pushed away by her daughter. Who is she now that she is not taking care of someone else? A more straight-forward look at a woman’s mid-life crisis with a particular eye to the sexuality of older women.  

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About the Author:

Misha Stone is a readers' advisory librarian with The Seattle Public Library. Follow her on Twitter at @ahsimlibrarian.

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