Monday, September 18, 2006

Anna Quindlen

I'm procrastinating this morning. Diane Rehm is interviewing Anna Quindlen on NPR, and I'm listening to their discussion as I write this.

I love Anna Quindlen. I first encountered her as the result of her op/ed column in the New York Times (NYT) for which she won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992.

I have a special affinity for Anna. We share the same ethnic hodgepodge: Italian and Irish, a somewhat unusual combination. And the same religion (with those ethnicities, need you ask?) although Anna is better at it than I am. And we both lived in New Jersey as children.

I have long admired her courage. In 1995, wanting to spend more time with her three children, she quit her job at the New York Times to devote her efforts to being an at-home writer.

Since that time, Anna has published several books containing copies of her NYT columns as well as several novels. The interview with Diane Rehm is part of the tour for her latest novel, Rise and Shine, about a morning anchor who utters an obscenity on the air when she doesn't realize her mike is still on. The book follows the protagonist's (Megan) journey, along with that of her sister, Bridget, a social worker in the Bronx. The book hit the top of the NYT best-seller list for fiction yesterday.

In talking about Rise and Shine, Anna said, "Success is internal while fame is external." She went on to explain that fame refers to the external trappings of one's life, while success is the way one feels internally about that life.

One of my favorite books remains Anna's One True Thing, a powerful novel about families, illness and death. The book was published in 1997, shortly before my own father died. I read and reread that book many times in the two years that followed.

If you are not familiar with Anna, you can take one of several routes to get acquainted: Your first choice is to pick up a copy of one of her non-fiction collections of the NYT columns. She did a wonderful job of weaving her public life and opinions with her private life (Her husband once asked her if she could get up and get him a beer without writing about it). The second choice is to pick up one of her six novels. Alternatively, you could find a copy of one of her two children's stories. Or, you can read her online columns in Newsweek.

Trust me. You won't regret it.

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