Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Pictures of You

Do you think when writers finish a book that they worry about what readers will take away from the stories? I read a few author blogs online and it seems likely that all they care about after finishing a book is not having to work on the book any more, but when a few months pass, the reviews on Amazon that say “You’re reading it all wrong!1!” may belong to the author. I’m always left pondering the weirdest stuff when I finish a biography – some throwaway line can keep me captivated for days. I’m probably supposed to be thinking about the author’s conversion from man into woman, and the political and social ramifications thereof, but days later I’m still pondering whether he/she is right about the difference in price between men and women’s haircuts mean that women are just suckers.

In Notes from the Underwire: Adventures from My Awkward and Lovely Life, former child star, Quinn Cummings (from Family and The Goodbye Girl writes about her life after acting. As fine an actress as she was, I’m kind of glad she doesn’t do it anymore, because active actors don’t get to be as honest about the industry as Quinn is here and they don’t usually have the time to have a family life, much less examine it so closely. Quinn Cummings talks about her daughter a lot, which only makes sense in a book of essays about her life. She mentions at one point that, as they live in a very small house, they are hyper-aware of each other’s faults and tics. Her husband has a habit of singing one line of a song over and over, they all follow her into the bathroom, she has her own quirks. And then she gets to her daughter and say’s something like, “Alice has annoying habits, too, but since they mostly came from us, and are thusly our fault, we love them as much as we love her.” I’m totally paraphrasing, but that’s the gist. What an elegant way around the fact that her child is going to read this book one day and know that she was a normal kid with normal horrible crazy-making habits, and that she was loved both in spite of and because of them.

I read a LOT of mommy blogs, as one does when one is childless and not altogether sorry about that state. I don’t know what the bloggers think their intention is, but I am usually not left with the takeaway that having children is so delightful. Of course, it may be the mommybloggers that I choose to read, but it’s miles more fun to hear (from way afar) about the children that hit and bite and burn things. They rarely are able to create such a loving connection on the page and I’m always left thinking that this blogger’s child is an angel and that one is the devil on earth. Despite the constant mommyblogger refrain, simply putting words on paper (or screen) doesn’t make you a Real Writer, capable of depicting fully-rounded characters. Quinn Cummings is a Real Writer, and a really funny one, too.


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