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At the time, Mr. Hall hadn’t lost everything — that was still to come.

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The evidence rests in the latest of his 33 books, divided between poetry and prose, this one called “Essays After Eighty” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014). It is a slim volume, alternately lyrical and laugh-out-loud funny, in which Mr. Hall, now 86, describes the “unknown, unanticipated galaxy” of the very old, so unimaginable to his younger self.

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This is no Hallmark card, though, and readers looking for golden sunsets and promises that age brings wisdom will be disappointed. For the treacle that usually infuses treatises on aging, he has substituted a seductive frankness and bracing precision. Mr. Hall falls, and with specificity: tripping over an ottoman and cracking a rib and blackening an eye. Taking a tumble in the driveway and ending up in the emergency room, where 147 specks of gravel are picked from his face with tweezers.

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In the summertime, there are Red Sox games on television virtually every night. Then he takes out his teeth, goes to bed, and the next day begins.

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On the other hand, some guards allow him to scrutinize masterpieces from the forbidden side of the velvet rope. And his days pass in comforting sameness, at the family farm where he and Ms. Kenyon fled academia in 1975, trading tenure and medical insurance for the “double solitude” of writing.

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Until his own time comes, the indignities of age continue to pile up. “Did we have a nice din-din?” a museum guard asks as Mr. Hall and a companion exit the cafeteria.

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Instead, Mr. Hall has turned compulsive list making into a sort of poetry. Over uncounted years, contentedly looking out the window of his New Hampshire home, he unspools what he sees season by season. Peonies like “feathery soccer balls.” Squirrels like “tree rats with the agility of point guards.”

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