Saturday, April 27, 2013

Anna Quindlen Interview

I don't have time to read The New York Times regularly (too many other periodicals and books to read) but for many years I have subscribed to the weekly The New York Times Book Review, which I find enormously informative and enjoyable to read. Of course the reviews are the main point, but I also enjoy features such as the essay at the end of each issue, and the "By the Book" interviews with authors. The interview in the April 21, 2013 issue is with Anna Quindlen. I have always admired Quindlen's pioneering role in journalism, and have enjoyed reading her work, from when she was a journalist and columnist through her several novels and essay collections. This brief interview in the NYTBR seems to capture the smart, committed, warm, down-to-earth, unpretentious presence conveyed in her writing as well. Her answer to the first question immediately reminded me of why I like her persona and writing. In answer to the question "What's your favorite book of all time?", she says she can't choose one, but lists "Middlemarch," "Bleak House," and "Pride and Prejudice." Great list! She also cites Jo March in "Little Women" as her favorite childhood literary character. Her mentions of George Eliot's, Jane Austen's, and Louisa May Alcott's works remind me of Virginia Woolf's point that every pioneering woman writer becomes a much needed role model for succeeding generations of women writers, empowering them with their examples. When asked about other books and authors she reads nowadays, Quindlen is generous in her praise of such authors as Katherine Boo, Kate Atkinson, and Hilary Mantel. Asked what kind of fiction she steers clear of, she says, " I think 'experimental fiction' is a synonym for 'Give me a break,' and I've never been able to warm up to sci-fi." Definitely a woman after my own heart on both counts. But when invited to name a "disappointing, overrated, just not good" book, she considerately declines to do so, saying that "No one needs to be reading in The Times that someone chucked her book after three chapters." Of course I immediately wondered if she had a specific book in mind, and what it was, but I guess I will never know, and I honor her kindness in not naming a book. Those who know what MY favorite book is will imagine how pleased I was to read the answer to the last question of the interview, "If you could meet any character from literature, who would it be?" Quindlen replies, "Elizabeth Bennet. We would be buds for sure, power-walking the grounds of Pemberley. And I would get to hang out with Darcy." Great choice!

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