It seems like I've read quite a few books lately that are good in the beginning, but absolutely wonderful in the last third. I'm reading one like that - Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen - right now. Quindlen has been on my list of favorite authors since my early twenties, but she moved up a few notches when I heard her speak in September.
Here are some tidbits from her talk that made me feel awesome:
- Quindlen doesn't care for the descriptor, "women's fiction." Of course, just yesterday I researched the genre for my own fiction writing project, and it's probably "women's fiction." This is a term you use to sell your book to an agent or editor, but it all - literary fiction, genre fiction, upmarket fiction, book club fiction - gets shelved together in the same section of the bookstore. Do you know why Quindlen hates the "women's" distinction? I bet you can guess. It's because it relegates writing by women, with a primary audience of women to a lesser status. As she puts it, it reveals a "lack of respect for women's lives." And, all of it is really "women's fiction" because women purchase about 80% of hardcover fiction sold.
- After Quindlen finishes a manuscript, she reads the entire thing aloud to herself. Connection! I also do this, but with every blog post and every important email. She says it takes a week. And when, she's finished reading it, she proclaims out loud, "This is good work." She does that because the concept of "audience" is slippery. It's her own voice that matters.
- Reading, according to Quindlen, is a democratic act. We practice empathy, we gain knowledge and perception of nuance. There's no "I'm too busy to read." Reading is always worth the time. It's how we stay in the light as a people and as a society.
Don't you want to read something by Anna Quindlen right now? I think you should. I like One True Thing quite a whole lot, and this latest one is fantastic, too. Or you could check out this column she wrote in 1992 ('92!) suggesting that Hillary Clinton would be a fantastic president.
Every feminist has a "slacks" story.
Whispering feminism to high school boys.