Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Friends"...but not "Come-Over-for-Dinner-Friends"

I have a strange relationship with Anna Quindlen.

The first strange thing about it is that she does not participate in our relationship beyond writing for a general audience. This is a somewhat passive role on her part. I don't blame her. I have never called her attention to my existence, so....
Plus, she could hardly be called passive in that writing she does for that general audience. Anna has something to say. In fact, she has many things to say, with vehemence and resolve.

My Aunt, Janice introduced me to Ms. Quindlen in 1999 with One True Thing, a novel that became popular enough to make a movie starring Renee Zellweger. It was in that book I discovered that, like Mark Helprin, Anna Quindlen was an author who would teach me new words.

I love new words.

Then I read Black and Blue.

Then I took a writing class at the Community College back in the long days of acquiring my eight year Associate's Degree. Anna Quindlen wrote an essay featured in my writing textbook in favor of abortion, given as an example of persuasive writing. I was not persuaded.

In fact, it was our first disagreement.
Which didn't amount to much as my novice pen could not begin to offer words in contradiction to one of such craft and intellect. My argument went something like this..."uh-uh" (in the negative, with my head saying "no", and my brows furrowed)...but unvocalized and without any supporting points.

Then I read Blessings.

Then I read How Reading Changed My Life.
Anna and I shared a love of reading from an early age. We even shared some of the same books, characters, magic of literature in the development of self.

But as much as I loved her words - her art, I became increasingly aware that we harbor different world views. Reading has taken us in different directions. This became more obvious when, after my first contribution to National Public Radio, I was offered a token of gratitude by receiving a subscription to NewsWeek. Anna Quindlen had an opinion column published every other week on the last page of the magazine. I read every one.

We disagreed on more than one occasion. But I couldn't give up reading her column. I wanted to know what she had to say about everything because she said it so well. If I had reason and confidence at my command, such as she does, I would write an opinion column too.

Ms. Quindlen is Catholic. Quite thoroughly so, and still practicing. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It is impossible to discern if this creates more similarities or differences between us. We both believe in God. This is rather fundamental.

Then, in the midst of our differing faiths and world views, Elder Ballard of The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke the name Anna Quindlen from the pulpit at the Conference Center during General Conference. Speaking about motherhood he quotes Quindlen speaking about her own mothering experience, saying ultimately, "I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less”

She is a generation beyond me, her children are grown, but I found that Elder Ballard's reference to Quindlen as mother created the most enduring link in our relationship thus far. Mothers - the universal sorority that eluded me entirely until I left the hospital with my first baby. Anna can argue with beguiling words in defense of all kinds of things that I work diligently in remaining unbeguiled. I still appreciate her voice.

And yesterday, when I turned the radio on to listen to the Diane Rehm Show, Diane was speaking to a woman I found a bit brash, opinionated, slightly too forward, but still likable. I get a little turned off by guests whose personalities are so commanding that they sort of "steal" Diane's authority. Diane rules.
But in the midst of speaking about whatever new book this bold woman had just published, she stopped the tide of praise in her own direction, and turned the spotlight to Diane in earnest sincerity. She announced to us listeners that our dear Diane has been recently named the recipient of the Peabody award.
It was Anna, whose voice I had never heard, but fit her perfectly in the revelation of her identity.

I would not have wanted to stand opposite her in debate club, but we stand together in our reverence for Diane. We stand together in a love of words. We stand together in a love of God, and an appreciation for motherhood. These are fundamental enough for me to consider us unthreatened friends.

Even if she doesn't know we are friends.

1 comment:

aubtobobtolob said...

Do me a favor will ya? Send this to News Week, or NPR PLEASE?!?