Monday, October 17, 2011

Favorite Quindlen Passage

I couldn't squeeze this into my previous entry about reading Talking Out Loud this afternoon. This needed to be here, in its own space, a part of Quindlen's column from July 8, 1992 about the United States Olympic men's basketball team, especially because of her stated equivalent:

"Somewhere in the contract of the male columnist it is written that once a year he must wax poetic and philosophic about baseball, making it sound like a cross between the Kirov and Zen Buddhism. This covers the baseball profundity axis more than adequately, which is a good thing. The connection between a base hit and karma eludes me.

But basketball is something different, sweatier and swifter and not likely to be likened to haiku, thank God. And this Olympic basketball team is something different entirely. It is the best sports team ever, the equivalent of rounding up the greatest American writers of the last century or so and watching them collaborate: "O.K., Twain, you do the dialogue and hand off to Faulkner. He'll do the interior monologue. Hemingway will edit--no, don't make that face, you know you overwrite. And be nice to Cheever. He's young, but he's got a good ear. Wharton and Cather can't play--they're girls." On television they were running down the lineup: Larry Bird. Patrick Ewing. Michael Jordan. Magic Johnson. When they got to Christian Laettner, the student prince of college basketball, I almost felt sorry for the guy because he was so outclasses, a mere champion among giants. We don't see giants often, even one at a time, never mind en masse and in skivvies."

Amen, Reverend Quindlen!

An Ideal Afternoon Lived

For now, in Santa Clarita, I spend as much time as I can reading, which during the week means large stretches of the afternoon given over to it. And I read with no expectation of doing anything else, doing anything better, because this is better. This is best.

Throughout this afternoon, I read from page 33 to the end of Thinking Out Loud by Anna Quindlen, a collection of her columns. I love newspaper column writers because the great ones teach you about succinctness, of packaging all your thoughts about any topic into a short number of words. Blogs don't have the limit that newspaper space does, but I don't like to pontificate for 182 paragraphs when far fewer will do. 180. Maybe.

In fact, my favorite aspect of my writing is knowing when to stop, an instinct honed from beginning to write when I was 11, all the way through to working at The Signal for two years, and beyond that to today, just as a voracious reader. Whenever I write anything here, it starts from an idea that pops to mind during the day that I just have to put into a lot of words. Then I start, and eventually, I get to that point where I think I've done all I can for that certain topic. The 10 floors of the Fairmont Hotel in Newport Beach ( require more than recounting weekend errands.

In the case of reading Thinking Out Loud, many things were going through my mind, first that Quindlen has a huge heart and an innate understanding of people. Real people. Not politicos who claim to have solutions that turn out only to suit them. Not famous people who are as far removed from daily life as a polar bear is from outer space. You and me and the babies that have changed Quindlen's life and outlook, for example, as well as columns about politics and the human faces of abortion, not just conjecture, and sweet columns about her children.

I also thought about other books I have that I want to read, such as that which I received today, including Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court by Jan Crawford Greenburg, a biography of legendary film critic Pauline Kael by Brian Kellow, and Second Lives: A Journey Through Virtual Worlds by Tim Guest, about those who live in and for computer-generated environments. I will never run out of anything to read, and this makes me the happiest over anything else in my life, although the attempts to be published for a second time and hopefully so on always compete with that.

Most of all, I just sat there on the couch, deeply satisfied at where I was and what I was doing (It comes with feeling like you're floating a bit, even though you're just sitting). I was reading a book, a particularly good one. That's all I needed. These are my ideal afternoons.