By Katie Goodale
Carl Klaus’ writing form, composed of journal entries, enthusiastically reflects on his life as a senior citizen, focusing on anecdotal stories of love, widowhood, and memory. Klaus continues to examine the passage of time and the truth of senior citizenship.
The founder of the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program, Klaus will read from the progressing project In My Eighties: Tales of Aging on at the Senior Center at 2 p.m. today.
The event, which is sponsored by the Senior Center and TRAIL of Johnson County, will include a Q&A session during which Klaus will discuss his developing book, answer questions, and discuss life as a senior citizen.
Klaus has written My Vegetable Love, Taking Retirement, Letters to Kate, Weathering Winter, The Made-Up Self, and A Self Made on Words and co-edited Essayist on the Essay. These works are largely written in the form of journal entries and letters that reflect on his marriage, retirement, and work, as well as his views on time, mortality, and change.
In My Eighties: Tales of Aging is no exception to this style with a manuscript expecting to be finished and printed by the UI Press by 2020. Klaus said he hopes that the audience will help him reflect more accurately on the collective experience of being a senior citizen.
“I knew right off that a day-to-day record of things would be out of the question,” he said. “So I decided to produce installments every six months, in the form of personal essays, each of which contains several episodes and reflections on various aspects of aging.”
Klaus began working at the UI in 1962 and founded the nonfiction program in 1976. He writes journal entries every day on information or incidents that he thinks might make an interesting full-length journal piece at the end of the six months. He typically looks for significant experiences or stories that relate to the overarching themes of the novel.
TRAIL (Tools and Resources for Active Independent Living) board member Joy Smith appreciates on Klaus’ writing form, which examines the ongoing challenges of aging.
“The progressive structure of this work is interesting,” she said. “Most important, it’s damn fine writing. The first page of the work draws the reader in; the voice and style are rich in personal detail, humorous, self-effacing, and hopeful. Carl’s ‘journaling’ touches on all the topics that one faces in the later decades of life — widowhood, new romance, medical crisis, money, how much you have and what should you do with it, the difference in one’s self-perception and the perception of others about you, and the ongoing challenge of keeping life interesting.”
TRAIL is a nonprofit organization that focuses on assisting older residents who don’t want to live in traditional senior-living facilities. It offers assistance in transportation, home technology, health-care services, and house-sitting services. Additionally, they offer social events such as book clubs, coffee meetings, card games, and group activities.
Susan Shullaw, the chair of TRAIL’s marketing committee, enthusiastically said members hope Klaus’ new book will help discussions centered on aging.
“Our hope, as is the case with many TRAIL events, is to spark dialogue about aging-related issues and help people of all generations understand that aging is a process made easier when it takes place in a supportive and understanding community.”