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*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
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***Loud and Clear

by Anna Quindlen

Reviewed August 3, 2004.
Random House, New York, 2004.  288 pages.

I’ve loved Anna Quindlen’s writing ever since I read her essay “On Bookshelves” published in Current Books Magazine long ago.  I made multiple copies of that essay and mailed it to friends, I liked it so much.  I was sure I had found a kindred spirit, or at least a true book lover.

Anna Quindlen’s essays still give me the feeling of having found a kindred spirit.  This book is a collection of columns written for Newsweek and The New York Times.  The topics cover many different aspects of life.

She says, “[Women] seemed more open to the idea of having serial lives, of constant reinvention, of discarding one self and assuming another. . . .  For many women, life is a circle, for men a straight line.”  In my life as a calculus teacher turned stay-at-home-mom turned library technician turned book reviewer hoping to turn writer, I appreciate someone talking about this.

Another chapter I liked celebrated the way America still reads.  “The spectacular success of the Harry Potter books might help create a new generation of inveterate readers.  At the very least it provides a soothing reminder that well-written stories with interesting characters manage to find an audience.”

A fun early essay is about the challenges of raising children.  “Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. . . .  As a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing.  Eventually you must learn to trust yourself.”

I liked the essay about America, “built of bits and pieces that seem discordant, like the crazy quilts that have been one of its great folk art forms, velvet and calico and checks and brocades.”  I like her idea of patriotism.  “Patriotism is partly taking pride in this unlikely ability to throw all of us together in a country that across its length and breadth is as different as a dozen countries, and still be able to call it by one name.”

The essays cover a huge range of topics, including some political ones, but all are well-written and give you something to think about.  I read this book slowly, only a chapter or two at a time, the better to savor it.

Reviews of other books by Anna Quindlen:
Imagined London
Being Perfect
Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake

Copyright © 2004 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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