Sunday, August 10, 2008

How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen

My first exposure to Anna Quindlen was the year that I lived in Paris. My parents had sent me a care package that included Jane Eyre from my mom and Object Lessons from my dad. Object Lessons was Quindlen's first novel. Dad picked it out because he believes she is one of the best writers (and in my dad's eyes that means technical composition skill - putting together a noun and a verb) today. He has always enjoyed her columns.

I found my parents pairing of books amusing since the girl in Object Lessons is reading Jane Eyre. The odd thing is, my parents did not know that. Neither of them had yet read Object Lessons. I still remember having one of those chilling moments when we realized the odd coincidence of the book choice. At the time I appreciated Quindlen's novel because it resonated with me. I felt Quindlen did an excellent job of portraying characters at such different stages in their lives and demonstrating how they interacted. But, more importantly at the time, was the pleasure I derived from my parents sending me books. Getting a touch of American culture (okay, and British) at a time when I was far away from home and immersing myself in books when I suffered from homesickness and culture shock was the best thing my parents could have given me.

And it's that love of books that made me appreciate so deeply what Quindlen wrote in How Reading Changed my Life. Quindlen's extended essay describes the desire and need to travel through literature. She recounts moments in her lives when books played an integral role. She examines the increasing importance of book groups - the connection people find through shared memories of the written word. Quindlen finishes by discussing why computers will never truly replace books. It is the act of holding a book and turning its pages that make reading reading. On every page I found lines that I wanted to write down and keep. Great quotes about the importance of books.

I aspire to be Anna Quindlen. I have read all of her novels. (I can't claim to have read all of her columns. I'm just not a newspaper reader). I marvel at her ability to turn her family into her means of expression. She has always used her role as a mother and a wife to write both her columns and her novels. One is not more important than the other. When I grow up, I want to be her. I will forever keep How Reading Changed My Life on my bookshelf. It is more indicative of who I am than probably any book I've ever read.

(And so goes my hommage to Anna Quindlen.)


bill said...

I never realized how much you liked Qunidlen. I was intrigued by how she was able to weave her life into her columns. Some of what you express about Matthew and Andrew would make a comparable column. I have not really read her fiction.

Dani said...

I like Anna Quindlen too. I have only read miscellaneous essays. Is she the one that wrote the good-enough mother essay? I liked that. I will have to read this book.