Thank you for signing up to receive news and updates from Anna Quindlen. This month Anna discusses her new book, Still Life With Bread Crumbs (on sale January 28), with her editor, Kate Medina.
1. Early readers have especially responded to a theme in Still Life with Bread Crumbs: changing your life at any age, starting again when you feel your life isn't working. Would you comment on this?
I'm actually not sure that's how I saw the book when I began it, Kate, although as you know my motives aren't always clear to me, in real time and in retrospect. I've always been interested in the notion of being pushed aside over time, maybe because I was once interviewed by a young(er) woman who introduced herself by saying, "I'm our paper's Anna Quindlen!" In the case of Rebecca Winter, the protagonist of Still Life, the up side to her fall from the limelight is that she gets to figure out how to value herself rather than let the world do it for her. I think that's the journey many women take, and since the value the world assigns to who you are and what you want is so often narrow and even unworthy, getting out of its clutches and into your own comfort zone can be really powerful.
2. What does a woman want?!—is an age-old, supposedly unanswerable question. I think Still Life with Bread Crumbs illuminates some answers to that question. We would love your thoughts!
Well, we could go on and on about that question, and the short snappy answer is that there are as many responses as there are women. But I do think that at a certain point women seek authenticity. There's an essential phoniness to the way we sometimes present ourselves, physically and socially—wearing uncomfortable clothes that someone, somewhere, has deemed fashionable, being nice to people we don't even like. How many times has someone said to me about their much older mother, or grandmother, "You wouldn't believe what comes out of her mouth!" Maybe that's a response to a lifetime's worth of so-called social graces.
3. Rebecca Winter, the main character in Still Life with Bread Crumbs, is an artist—a photographer. You are a different kind of artist—a writer. What do you see as connections between the way Rebecca does her work, and the way a writer—you—do yours? What might be similar, or different, about creativity in different forms?
Certainly this is the part that will make readers and critics suspect autobiography in this novel. In her 30s Rebecca becomes famous almost accidentally through some photographs taken in her kitchen at the end of a dinner party. The work is hailed as feminist, deconstructed and described in terms of women's household roles. None of this is Rebecca's conscious intent. I had a somewhat similar experience when I created a column called Life in the 30s for the New York Times. I was writing about being stuck in the house with small children because I was stuck in the house with small children. It was not my intent to be a standard bearer for working mothers, just to get through toddlerhood while still earning some kind of disposable income. But I don't think this means either Rebecca or I are accidental artists; I think art is accidental in many ways which are unacknowledged. Something...just...happens—in the work and in some chemical reaction a viewer or a reader has to the work. A hugely esteemed novelist and I were talking one day about going on book tour. He growled, "The worst part is having to pretend you know why you do what you do." I almost kissed him, I was so relieved that I wasn't the only one who feels that way!
Continue reading Anna's interview