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An Interview with Author Anna Quindlen
The best preparation I could have had for a life as a novelist was life as a newspaper reporter. At a time when more impressionistic renderings of events were beginning to creep into the news pages, I learned to look always for the telling detail: the neon sign in the club window, the striped towel on the deserted beach. I learned to distinguish between those details that simply existed and those that revealed. Those telling details are the essence of fiction that feels real. The command of those details explains why Charles Dickens, a onetime reporter, has a byline for the ages.
I learned, from decades of writing down their words verbatim in notebooks, how real people talk. I learned that syntax and rhythm were almost as individual as a fingerprint, and that one quotation, precisely transcribed and intentionally untidied, could delineate a character in a way that pages of exposition never could. And I learned to make every word count. All those years of being given 1,200 words, of having the 1,200 pared to 900 at 3 o'clock: it teaches you to make the distinction between what is necessary and what is simply you in love with the sound of your own voice. The most important thing I ever do from an editing perspective is cut. I learned how to do that in newsrooms, where cutting is commonplace, swift, and draconian.
That’s where I learned about writer's block, too. People have writer's block not because they can't write, but because they despair of writing eloquently. That's not the way it works, and one of the best places to learn that is a newspaper, which in its instant obsolescence is infinitely forgiving. Jacques Barzun once wrote: "Convince yourself that you are working in clay, not marble, on paper, not eternal bronze: let that first sentence be as stupid as it wishes. No one will rush out and print it as it stands." Journalism is the professional embodiment of that soothing sentiment.
Of course, it is also the professional embodiment of fact-finding, and that, more than anything else, is why the notion of a journalist who is also a novelist perplexes readers. "I could never make it up," one of the very best reporters I've ever known said to me. But that notion of untrammeled invention becomes illusory after a while. If you manage to build characters from the ground up carefully, make them really real, your ability to invent decreases as their verisimilitude grows. Certain people will only behave in certain ways; certain behaviors will only lead to certain other behaviors. The entire range of possible events decreases as characters choose one road, not another. Plot is like a perspective drawing, its possible permutations growing narrower and narrower, until it reaches a fixed point in the distance. That point is the ending. Life is like that. Fiction is like life, at least if it is good. And I know life. I learned it as a newspaper reporter, and now I reflect that education as a novelist. --Anna Quindlen
In her latest, Quindlen (Rise and Shine) once again plumbs the searing emotions of ordinary people caught in tragic circumstances. Mary Beth Latham is a happily married woman entirely devoted to her three teenaged children. When her talented daughter Ruby casually announces she's breaking up with her boyfriend Kirenan, a former neighbor who's become like family, Mary Beth is slightly alarmed, but soon distracted by her son Max, who's feeling overshadowed by his extroverted, athletic twin brother Alex. Quindlen's novel moves briskly, propelled by the small dramas of summer camp, proms, soccer games and neighbors, until the rejected Kirenan blindsides the Lathams, and the reader, with an incredible act of violence. Left with almost nothing, Mary Beth struggles to cope with loss and guilt, protect what she has left, and regain a sense of meaning. Quindlen is in classic form, with strong characters and precisely cadenced prose that builds in intensity.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Great book. Sad but beautiful. A mothers love is never ending. I cried and laughed throughout the whole book. I could not put it down.Published 14 days ago by Yvonne Rosales
Enjoyed the novel very much. It delves into the effects of grieving in a famiily.Published 1 month ago by Jane T Walton
There is violence in this novel. It's a tough book but well written. Makes me think about the people around me.Published 1 month ago by Busy Bee
I have just gotten hooked by the book but haven't finished it. Like all her books, I get to a point where the characters come out of the book into real life and I start wondering... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Be the Change
Soooooooo boring. Mundane. Yes, there's a plot twist. I couldn't stand it. I fast-forwarded through the pages to get to it. Oh, ok, there it is. Mundane again. Read morePublished 2 months ago by PZFGirl
The raw depth of the grief laid out in this novel was almost too painful to read, but i was unable to stop listening. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Sandi Asazawa
Incredibly good book that you won't want th input down. This is a must read. Anna Quindlen at her best!Published 2 months ago by Judy Pet
As usual Quindlan comes up with characters that speak to our souls.
This is an extreme example of loss but the overcoming of grief has the same process it needs to go through.