A Carnival of Losses
New essays from the vantage point of very old age, once again “alternately lyrical and laugh-out-loud funny,”* from the former poet laureate of the United States * New York Times Donald Hall lived a remarkable life of letters, one capped most recently by the New York Times bestseller Essays After Eighty, a “treasure” of a book in which he “balance[s] frankness about losses with humor and gratitude” (Washington Post). Before his passing in 2018, nearing ninety, Hall delivered this new collection of self-knowing, fierce, and funny essays on aging, the pleasures of solitude, and the sometimes astonishing freedoms arising from both. He intersperses memories of exuberant days—as in Paris, 1951, with a French girl memorably inclined to say, “I couldn’t care less”—with writing, visceral and hilarious, on what he has called the “unknown, unanticipated galaxy” of extreme old age.   “Why should a nonagenarian hold anything back?” Hall answers his own question by revealing several vivid instances of “the worst thing I ever did," and through equally uncensored tales of  literary friendships spanning decades, with James Wright, Richard Wilbur, Seamus Heaney, and other luminaries.  Cementing his place alongside Roger Angell and Joan Didion as a generous and profound chronicler of loss, Hall returns to the death of his beloved wife, Jane Kenyon, in an essay as original and searing as anything he's written in his extraordinary literary lifetime.

A Carnival of Losses Details

TitleA Carnival of Losses
Author
ReleaseJul 10th, 2018
PublisherHoughton Mifflin Harcourt
ISBN-139781328826343
Rating
GenreWriting, Essays, Autobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Poetry, Biography

A Carnival of Losses Review

  • Gerri
    January 1, 1970
    Until I saw a write up about this book in my local newspaper, I had no idea who Donald Hall was. The synopsis of the book was so intriguing that I had to read it and I’m so glad I did!!!! One of the best reads this summer. Mr. Hall is so open and honest in this writing about everything from aging, his loves, loss and life in general at turning 90. I don’t think he held anything back. Loved the way he wrote in short chapters which made this book so easy to get through while stilling reading a mor Until I saw a write up about this book in my local newspaper, I had no idea who Donald Hall was. The synopsis of the book was so intriguing that I had to read it and I’m so glad I did!!!! One of the best reads this summer. Mr. Hall is so open and honest in this writing about everything from aging, his loves, loss and life in general at turning 90. I don’t think he held anything back. Loved the way he wrote in short chapters which made this book so easy to get through while stilling reading a more in-depth novel.
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  • Bookish
    January 1, 1970
    This is beloved poet Donald Hall’s moving memoir A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety. Hall’s late wife, Jane Kenyon, is one of my favorite contemporary poets, so I have a soft spot for Hall anyway, but when I read his essay “Between Solitude and Loneliness” in The New Yorker a couple of years ago I was brought to my knees. This essay is now a chapter in A Carnival of Losses, and it’s a pretty great example of what you will find in this book, which is basically one part grieving love story This is beloved poet Donald Hall’s moving memoir A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety. Hall’s late wife, Jane Kenyon, is one of my favorite contemporary poets, so I have a soft spot for Hall anyway, but when I read his essay “Between Solitude and Loneliness” in The New Yorker a couple of years ago I was brought to my knees. This essay is now a chapter in A Carnival of Losses, and it’s a pretty great example of what you will find in this book, which is basically one part grieving love story, one part reflection on things past, one part shaking his fist at God, and one part Andy Rooney curmudgeonliness. It’s also a book about aging and continuing to write as one does. Simply put: It’s a heartbreaking beauty of a book. —Myf (excerpted from Bookish's Staff Reads)
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  • Rhonda Lomazow
    January 1, 1970
    Donald Hall wrote so openly and honestly of aging.He held nothing back the fact that the older he got the more naps he needed remembering his younger years.When he talks about Jane Kenyon his love a young woman he met when she was in his college class. How they fell in love built a life both poets her poetry so beautiful. Their daily routine till his heartbreak she fell ill he nursed her daily but this much younger woman the love he never got over passed away.He now so old missing her wishing sh Donald Hall wrote so openly and honestly of aging.He held nothing back the fact that the older he got the more naps he needed remembering his younger years.When he talks about Jane Kenyon his love a young woman he met when she was in his college class. How they fell in love built a life both poets her poetry so beautiful. Their daily routine till his heartbreak she fell ill he nursed her daily but this much younger woman the love he never got over passed away.He now so old missing her wishing she would be sitting by his side as his turn came,Heartwrenching& I hope they are dancing in heaven together.His poetry& hers along with his essays will always keep them alive,
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  • Eric
    January 1, 1970
    I did not know who Donald Hall was before I read this. I read a review of this somewhere. It wasn't as depressing as it sounds. A lot of it was pretty funny actually. Donald Hall was the poet laureate of America about 10 years ago. He was married to Jane Kenyon who died of leukemia at 47. He talked about her a lot and also about getting older (no surprise there), poets that he had met, friends, his family, and the old farmhouse he lived in among other things. He seemed like a smart, witty guy. I I did not know who Donald Hall was before I read this. I read a review of this somewhere. It wasn't as depressing as it sounds. A lot of it was pretty funny actually. Donald Hall was the poet laureate of America about 10 years ago. He was married to Jane Kenyon who died of leukemia at 47. He talked about her a lot and also about getting older (no surprise there), poets that he had met, friends, his family, and the old farmhouse he lived in among other things. He seemed like a smart, witty guy. It must be nice to call your profession "poet" and be able to make a living off of that. A rare breed.
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  • Ellyn Lem
    January 1, 1970
    I bet if someone is an ardent fan of Donald Hall's poetry, that person would revel in this latest collection of essays written in his late 80s. The novelist Ann Patchett is one such fan and has heartily endorsed the collection, which is how I had heard of it. While somewhat familiar with Hall's poems (less so his children's books and criticism), I had a hard time mustering up much excitement for most of these short snippets on a wide variety of topics, many of which involve lots of his relatives I bet if someone is an ardent fan of Donald Hall's poetry, that person would revel in this latest collection of essays written in his late 80s. The novelist Ann Patchett is one such fan and has heartily endorsed the collection, which is how I had heard of it. While somewhat familiar with Hall's poems (less so his children's books and criticism), I had a hard time mustering up much excitement for most of these short snippets on a wide variety of topics, many of which involve lots of his relatives that most people will never have heard of. As a result, those essays were hard to get into and did not keep my attention fully. There was a middle section on poets that was a little bit more interesting, but uneven. Some well-known poets were mentioned like T.S. Eliot and William Carlos Williams, but others were lesser known and the anecdotes varied in their level of engagement. A few pieces stood out for me--one on necropoetry that talks about the poetry he wrote after losing his second wife to cancer and how poetry and grief are companions. One that shocked me a little toward end was called "Fucking," but that one was not boring at all!! Wish someone had edited these essays more and found a more effective organization for them since everything came off as a little bit random...but with sprinkled gems throughout.
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  • Michael
    January 1, 1970
    There are many things I liked and enjoyed about this book - having just finished it, I find it difficult to try to organize a suitable short explanation of why I enjoyed. One comment would simply be that I am a typical (I fear) individual who only occasionally reads a poem or feels much affinity for poetry, but there is much here that does not require an enthusiasm for poetry.. While reading the book, I looked up some of Mr. Hall's other works and discovered that he died last month (June 2018). There are many things I liked and enjoyed about this book - having just finished it, I find it difficult to try to organize a suitable short explanation of why I enjoyed. One comment would simply be that I am a typical (I fear) individual who only occasionally reads a poem or feels much affinity for poetry, but there is much here that does not require an enthusiasm for poetry.. While reading the book, I looked up some of Mr. Hall's other works and discovered that he died last month (June 2018). An attentive librarian at the Library of Congress (or perhaps somewhere else) has already updated his name authority record so that I learned this when I read in a bibliographic record for one of this book - Hall, Donald (1928-1918). The book was officially published only after his death, it seems.In reading Mr. Hall's obituary in the Washington Post, I was saddened slightly to learn he did not quite make it to his 9oth birthday, which would have been in September. In this book, he describes the celebration of his mother's 90th birthday and one sensed he looked forward to that milestone celebration.Really, five stars is not enough.
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  • Rachel Watkins
    January 1, 1970
    Reading Hall's A CARNIVAL OF LOSSES is like a visit with an old friend. The essays run the gamut from his opinion on the resurgence of beards to the origin story for his infamous children's book, OX-CART MAN, which was originally a poem. Antidotes about dinner parties with T. S. Eliot., driving around Oregon with James Dickey, or how Theodore Roethke was a self-serving operator are in stark contrast to as essay entitled "Losing My Teeth" in which he talks about constantly losing his dentures. Po Reading Hall's A CARNIVAL OF LOSSES is like a visit with an old friend. The essays run the gamut from his opinion on the resurgence of beards to the origin story for his infamous children's book, OX-CART MAN, which was originally a poem. Antidotes about dinner parties with T. S. Eliot., driving around Oregon with James Dickey, or how Theodore Roethke was a self-serving operator are in stark contrast to as essay entitled "Losing My Teeth" in which he talks about constantly losing his dentures. Poet Donald Hall has lived an extraordinary life and his thoughts as he nears ninety years old are a treasure.
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  • Sandy Lane
    January 1, 1970
    A genuine portrayal of life lived as an aged author and poet. Real and painful to read at times when he describes the aging that is inevitable to the rest of us. Sweet and funny most other times as we wonder if he will make it to 90.
  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    Beautiful <3
  • Lara
    January 1, 1970
    Brings beauty and humor to aging and mortality.
  • Brian
    January 1, 1970
    *****
  • Joan Lieberman
    January 1, 1970
    Humorously truthful about the often degrading nature of joining the elderly frail tribe, Donald Hall, reminds his readers of what lies ahead for all of us whether we are young, middle-aged or moving past seventy. While painting a perspective portrait of how life naturally narrows, he also provides a resume-like review of other poets he has known and admired. Living alone in the house once occupied by his great grandfather, Donald Hall is still mourning the death of his second wife, the poet Jane Humorously truthful about the often degrading nature of joining the elderly frail tribe, Donald Hall, reminds his readers of what lies ahead for all of us whether we are young, middle-aged or moving past seventy. While painting a perspective portrait of how life naturally narrows, he also provides a resume-like review of other poets he has known and admired. Living alone in the house once occupied by his great grandfather, Donald Hall is still mourning the death of his second wife, the poet Jane Kenyon, who died two decades ago. His description of his struggle to finish this memoir reminds writer-readers to write while they can.
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  • RMazin
    January 1, 1970
    Donald Hall shows the rest of us what talent, tenacity and thought can produce from a treasured US poet laureate, now in his nineties. He mines his memory to reflect upon events and people in a way that is often poignant and funny. Slyly, he includes a section on poets that he has admired who may not have received the accolades they deserved when alive. Slyly, because, I will go and seek out their works – just as Mr. Hall intended! As always, his descriptions of people, his homes and even his da Donald Hall shows the rest of us what talent, tenacity and thought can produce from a treasured US poet laureate, now in his nineties. He mines his memory to reflect upon events and people in a way that is often poignant and funny. Slyly, he includes a section on poets that he has admired who may not have received the accolades they deserved when alive. Slyly, because, I will go and seek out their works – just as Mr. Hall intended! As always, his descriptions of people, his homes and even his daily routines makes one want to visit him…. which may make him feel flattered and threatened! So do the next best thing, enjoy his writing and his outlook on life.Highly recommended (as is all his prior work, most recently Essays after Eighty.)Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing the opportunity to read this book.
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