S5-EP15: Abigail Thomas on Life at 81: Liquid Moments, Memory, French Toast and Writing

May 12, 2023


Debbie talks with bestselling author Abigail Thomas about her extraordinary new memoir “Still Life at Eighty” and why she loves being old.



Debbie speaks with bestselling author Abigail Thomas whom Stephen King calls “the Emily Dickinson of memoirists.”

Her new memoir, titled “Still Life at Eighty,” is a series of loosely connected essays on the topic of aging. But it’s so much more than that. Abby, as she insisted that Debbie call her, is funny and frank and profane as she talks about the good and the bad of aging. Yes, there are aches and pains. No, she doesn’t mind being old. In fact, she loves it. She no longer cares what people think of her and – just for the record – she is not afraid of death. As she puts it: “Please God, let there be no afterlife.”

In this conversation she and Debbie talk about her writing (Debbie finds it “transcendent”), her relationship to time and memories, her longterm friendship with literary agent Chuck Verrill (who died in early 2022), and why she loves working with clay.

Abby is the daughter of renowned science writer Lewis Thomas, the mother of four children and a grandmother of 12. She is the bestselling author of several previous memoirs, including “A Three Dog Life” and “What Comes Next and How to Like It.” She lives in Woodstock, NY with her dogs, where she writes and teaches writing. 

Mentioned in this episode or useful:

“STILL LIFE AT EIGHTY is a little jewel box of a book, full of epiphanies that are comforting and merciless in the gentlest possible way. Both a series of meditations and a user’s manual about growing old, I was amazed by its clarity… Even the title, with its deliberate ambiguity, is a very cool thing.” — Stephen King

PHOTO CREDIT: Jennifer Waddell



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Encore.org, our newest media partner, is an ideas and innovation hub tapping the talent of those 50+ as a force for good. Founder and CEO Marc Freedman is an award-winning social entrepreneur and author, most recently, of How to Live Forever: The Enduring Power of Connecting the Generations. Looking for a great gap-year transition program? Check out Encore Fellowships, which match skilled, seasoned professionals with social-sector organizations in high-impact, paid assignments.


Modern Elder Academy is a program dedicated to navigating mid-life transitions. MEA, based in Baja California, Mexico, provides the place and the tools to start reframing your lifetime of experience. Grow whole, not old. Founder Chip Conley is a New York Times bestselling author, award-winning hospitality entrepreneur and a rock star of the mid-life transition movement. His newest book is Wisdom @ Work: the Making of a Modern Elder.


Next For Me is an important new resource for the 50+ crowd focused on rewriting life. Taking a gap year or timeout may be the best way to figure out "what's next" when you're in this stage of life. Founder Jeff Tidwell explains, Next For Me "connects and inspires our generation to evolve our post-50 lives through new work, a new purpose, or a new social contribution."