I love Anna Quindlen. I envy Anna Quindlen. I’ve wanted to BE Anna Quindlen from time to time. Ever since her Life in the 30’s column for the New York Times I have admired her. I’ll never forget the one she wrote about sharing books with her son. She likened his mind to the mast of sail boat; her love of reading was the metaphorical wind, guiding her son’s billowing world of books.
When I began writing personal essays, pulling column ideas from our family life, I remembered Quindlen’s husband once chastised her: “Can’t I even get a beer from the fridge without you writing about it?” I never wrote about beer in any of my columns. Then Anna Q. went on to Newsweek, doubtless having experiences much less explosive than mine. There was a column or two that I felt I could have tweaked to perfection, but no one hits a Grand Slam each and every time.
I’ve just read Blessings which needs no tweaking from anyone. Quindlen’s novel of a drifter, a privileged and unbending widow and the abandoned newborn who transforms them, is constructed as one might an intricate French braid. Quindlen moves slowly, unconstrained by the 700 word terrain of the personal essay. The point is she doesn’t have to get to the point any too quickly. And thus Anna Q takes a strand of story from over here and then one from here, folding them seamlessly together, deftly weaving wisps of revelation insubstantial in and of themselves but critical to the whole in order to create an admirable tale of friendship and heartbreak, a story of nurturance found in the unlikeliest of breasts.
By the final page, all loose ends are neatly tucked in, secured by her inimitable talent and braided into a book of substance and beauty. Like I said. I love Anna Quindlen. Do you think she water skis, too?