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Still Alive (Review)

Herbert Gold (Arcade)

By Larry Gross · August 20th, 2008 · Lit

Herbert Gold is a Buckeye, born and raised in the Cleveland area, but he's lived in California for many years and is one of the last of the San Francisco beatniks. Having written 20 novels and numerous short shorts and essays, Gold is a man who now finds himself in his eighties, but that doesn't mean his writing has become "senior citizen."

This memoir on his life is smart, crisp and feisty. Perhaps he's a bit all over the place -- writing about his army and World War II days, then jumping ahead and writing about his love for his second wife who was killed in a helicopter crash -- but that's part of the fun of Still Alive! It's as if Gold wants the reader to dare to keep up with his hectic pace, and we're introduced to some fascinating people along the way.

Gold writes of the flower children of the '60s, of his late brother Sid who spent nearly 50 years working on a novel he never finished and of his up and down friendship with novelist Saul Bellow. Being a lion in winter now, many of Gold's family members and friends have died, but throughout the book he has a commonsense approach to dealing with his grief.

More than halfway through the memoir, while writing on this subject, Gold says, "Life doesn't necessarily make us better; that's not life's business. Life gives what it gives, takes back what it takes back, and it's our business to sort things out for ourselves as best we can." These are wise words from one of America's best writers, and both young and young at heart will enjoy Still Alive!

It's the best book I've read so far this year. Let's hope Gold cheats death and lives forever. Grade: A


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