After I’d read through the first few “chapters” (really: short essays or articles) in Anna Quindlen’s Loud and Clear, I put it down and said to Micah, “I don’t know if I can read any more.”
“Because it makes me feel like she’s already said everything I have to say, in exactly the way I’d like to say it.”
This led to a much longer discussion than I had intended on the process of reading and studying those we want to be like. Micah spends some time each day trolling through the interwebs with his eye out for good design. Things he likes he pins on Pinterest or puts in a folder called, “Ideas to Steal” or otherwise marks them as something to aspire to. I definitely spend some time each day writing and, if I’m lucky, reading for at least a few minutes. I feel like those few minutes are easier to find and better spent when I’m reading the kind of things I hope to publish one day.
I’ve been able to find several minutes to read a couple of Quindlen’s pieces before bed each night. They are short – they ran the columns she wrote for The New York Times and Newsweek – and therefore concise and focused. I can get through one in three or four minutes. But that doesn’t mean they are dry or clinical. She writes about raising children – her own, but also raising children in general, and about specific cases and issues that were current events when she wrote them – and she captures the experience just as well in her tone and tact as she does in the subject matter of each piece. They are witty, intelligent, urgent, compassionate, full of amusement and exasperation, hope and resignation. I hope that as I read her work, Quindlen rubs off on me, or that I am able to absorb her words and ways as much as I can.
A sampling of passages:
“Mostly ours were the ordinary everyday terrors and miracles of raising a child, and our children’s challenges the old familiar ones of learning to live as themselves in the world. The trick was to get past my fears, my ego, and my inadequacies to help them do that.”
“In another world, middle-class American have embraced new home starts, the stock market, and the Gap. But in the world of these displaced families, problems ignored or fumbled or unforeseen during this great period of prosperity have dovetailed into an enormous subculture of children who think that only rich people have their own bedrooms.”
“Summer is coming. It used to be a time apart for kids, a respite from the clock and the copybook, the organized day. Every once in a while, either guilty or overwhelmed or tired of listening to me keen about my monumental boredom, my mother would send me to some rinky-dink park program that consisted almost entirely of three-legged races and making things out of Popsicle sticks. Instead now there are music camps, sports camps, fat camps, probably thin camps. I mourn hanging out in the backyard. I mourn playing Wiffle ball in the street without a sponsor and matching shirts. I mourn drawing in the dirt with a stick.”
“The insidious cult of motherhood is summed up by the psychic weight of the sampler on that doctor’s wall [which read: GOD COULD NOT BE EVERYWHERE SO HE MADE MOTHERS]. We are meant to be all things to small people, surrounded by bromides and soppy verse and smiling strangers who talk about how lucky we are. And we are lucky. My children have been the making of me as a human being, which does not mean they have not sometimes been an overwhelming and mind-boggling responsibility. That last is the love that dare not speak its name, the love that is fraught with fear and fatigue and inevitable resentment.”
And now, my friends, go ahead and check out some Quindlen. And then you may as well save yourselves some time and unsubscribe to the Mother Runner, because she’s pretty much said all I have to say.
(Just kidding. Please don’t unsubscribe. I need an audience to help me maintain my motivation to keep at this writing thing.)