All I need to be entertained are cats within ear-scratching distance and a good book . . .OK, maybe that's not ALL I need, but it's a good start.

I love to read. And I love to get recommendations for books to read.

I started Cats and a Book to share the books I read with others. Some I love, some I don't, but you may love the ones I don't, so you're welcome to post your own comments and suggestions.

To make it easier to purchase books you may read about on the blog, I've linked to through The Cats and a Book Bookstore, which is located on the bottom of this page. Your purchases are fulfilled and handled through Amazon. To assure your privacy, Cats and a Book doesn't handle any of your payment or contact information.

Happy reading!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Early Bird: A Memoir of Premature Retirement, by Rodney Rothman

Rodney Rothman's book, Early Bird, has all the makings of a witty, entertaining, and bittersweet story. Rothman, who was laid off from his writing job for Letterman, decides to retire to Florida at 28 years old. It's an experiment, a sort of "trying on" of retirement, so he'd be ready when the time came. Since he was underage to live in most retirement communities, he finds a roommate named Margaret, a 60-something widow in a Boca Raton retirement community called Century Village. Margaret also shares her condo with cats and birds, which is against Century Village rules and are a source of annoyance to Rothman.

Readers might expect Rothman to toss off stereotypes of Florida retirees or older people in general, but he does a fair job of describing his new friends. He even interjected information he researched about successfully retiring and aging well, including staying active, being involved, and maintaining a social network, and he observed and reported on those who were doing well and those who were not. One who wasn't doing so well was Rothman's roommate, Margaret. It became clear to him that she was still grieving for her husband, and when he learned she used to teach piano, Rothman coaxed Margaret into giving him lessons.

To ease his transition to the retirement community, he joined the Newcomers Club, the Shuffleboard Club, the Not-for-Ladies-Only Club (which seemed to have only women members), and attempted to work his way into the tight Canasta circle. He took a part-time job (for no pay) like many retirees do, in order to stay active and make a little extra money. Being the youngest resident in the community had its challenges, such as finding an accepting social circle, but it also had its advantages. After spending time with an elderly golf partner he wrote, "I would recommend that anybody with a need for a mother or father figure spend six months testing out retirement early in Florida. There are millions of elderly people there in need of a child figure."

There were times Rothman seemed to skim over details that could have enriched the story, and later in the book, the author frequently brags to dates about how he is doing this or that "for the book." The reader gets the sense that much of what he did was nothing more than a book premise. He sends up what he calls "weather balloons" to gauge reactions, such as telling his friends that he had sex with a seventy-five year old woman. He didn't, but for some reason, he wanted to know how his friends would react. Again, this reinforces the feel that this is gimmick literature, and that he was conducting nothing more than play experiments "for the book."

In the book's Epilogue, Rothman admits he "wasn't so changed" from the experience. Although he does admit that having so many elderly friends was enriching, there were many opportunities to learn from his interactions with them. It's a shame he missed them.

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