Garson Kanin Doris Grumbach - Essay

Doris Grumbach

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

If youth is wasted on the young, old age has not been wasted on Garson Kanin. At 66 (hardly old, except for the thesis of his book), he is determined to declare war "on the mindless youth cult that has our time in its grip." The result is ["It Takes a Long Time to Become Young,"] a slight, indignant and often entertaining defense of his belief that should stimulate his contemporaries to take up arms with him against all the societal wrongs done to older persons….

Mr. Kanin fills his battle plan with vignettes of still-active and productive persons in their 70's and 80's, and parallels them with tales of persons who slowly declined after they were forced to retire….

Mr. Kanin scorns a culture that so worships the young that it loses respect for the old. His own family serves as exemplum for his beliefs. He devotes a chapter to his remarkable wife, actress-writer Ruth Gordon, whose long career reached its height when she was over 70. His portrait of her work-jammed existence will shame any lethargic 20-year-old. His own chatty little book is proof of his youthfulness, proof as well of Somerset Maugham's saying: "Old age is ready to undertake tasks that youth shirked because they would take too long."

Doris Grumbach, "Nonfiction in Brief: 'It Takes a Long Time to Become Young," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1978 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), February 26, 1978, p. 22.