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Anna Quindlen

  • ... I read and walked for miles at night along the beach, writing bad blank verse and searching endlessly for someone wonderful who would step out of the darkness and change my life. It never crossed my mind that that person could be me.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • "At the Beach," Living Out Loud ()
  • ... I think anyone who comes upon a Nautilus machine suddenly will agree with me that its prototype was clearly invented at some time in history when torture was considered a reasonable alternative to diplomacy.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • "Stretch Marks," Living Out Loud ()
  • I went to a women's college. ... it was a little like learning to swim while holding on to the side of the pool; I didn't learn the arm movements until after I graduated, but by that time I was one hell of a kicker.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • "Feminist," Living Out Loud ()
  • I believe that in a contest between the living and the almost living, the latter must, if necessary, give way to the will of the former.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • "Some Thoughts About Abortion," Living Out Loud ()
  • If you want something, it will elude you. If you do not want something, you will get ten of it in the mail.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • "Tuning Forks," Living Out Loud ()
  • What I expect from my male friends is that they are polite and clean. What I expect from my female friends is unconditional love, the ability to finish my sentences for me when I am sobbing, a complete and total willingness to pour their hearts out to me, and the ability to tell me why the meat thermometer isn't supposed to touch the bone.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • Living Out Loud ()
  • Sometimes change came all at once, with a sound like a fire taking hold of dry wood and paper, with a roar that rose around you so you couldn't hear yourself think. And then, when the roar died down, even when the fires were damped, everything was different.

  • Figuring out who you are is the whole point of the human experience.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • "One View Fits All," New York Times ()
  • Fashions in bigotry come and go. The right thing lasts.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • syndicated column, New York Times ()
  • Stereotypes fall in the face of humanity. We human beings are best understood one at a time.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • syndicated column, New York Times ()
  • Being a reporter is as much a diagnosis as a job description. It is a strange business, making a living off other people's misfortunes, standing in the rubble with a press card as a nominal shield, writing in a crabbed hand notes no one else can read, riding an adrenaline surge that ends in a product at once flimsy and influential.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • syndicated column, New York Times ()
  • Testosterone does not have to be toxic.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • syndicated column, New York Times ()
  • And a great misunderstanding is that children think their parents are grown-up, and parents feel obliged to act as if they were.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • in Writer's Digest ()
  • A finished person is a boring person.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • in Writer's Digest ()
  • Ethnic stereotypes are misshapen pearls, sometimes with a sandy grain of truth at their center. ... but they ignore complexity, change, and individuality.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • "Erin Go Brawl," Thinking Out Loud ()
  • I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • "Bookshelves," Thinking Out Loud ()
  • The difference between government and leadership is that leadership has a soul.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • "No There There," Thinking Out Loud ()
  • There is a character issue for Mr. Bush in this campaign. The clothes have no emperor.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • "No There There," Thinking Out Loud ()
  • I remember adolescence, the years of having the impulse control of a mousetrap, of being as private as a safe-deposit box.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • "Mom, Dad, and Abortion," Thinking Out Loud ()
  • ... high fashion has little to do with what women wear and a lot to do with what retailers mark down later.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • "Rebels Without a Clue," Thinking Out Loud ()
  • Look at Senator Helms's comments. ... They prove that the senator speaks his mind, and that he is not working with much when he does so.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • syndicated column, New York Times ()
  • When men do the dishes it's called helping. When women do dishes, it's called life.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • in New Woman ()
  • Women writers of all people should know better than to pigeonhole women, put them in little groups, the smart one, the sweet one.

  • Hospitals are a little like the beach. The next wave comes in, and the footprints of your pain and suffering, your delivery and recovery, are obliterated ...

  • Grief remains one of the few things that has the power to silence us. It is a whisper in the world and a clamor within. More than sex, more than faith, even more than its usher death, grief is unspoken, publicly ignored except for those moments at the funeral that are over too quickly, or the conversation among the cognoscenti, those of us who recognize in one another a kindred chasm deep in the center of who we are.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • "The Living Are Defined by Whom They Have Lost," in Times Union ()
  • We are awash in the revealed world.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • in Jennifer James, Thinking in the Future Tense: Leadership Skills for a New Age ()
  • I don't understand how people learn to live in the world if they haven't had siblings. Everything I learned about negotiation, territoriality, coexistence, dislike, inbred differences and love despite knowledge I learned from my four younger siblings ...

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • in Nick Kelsh and Anna Quindlen, Siblings ()
  • My home was in a pleasant place outside of Philadelphia. But I really lived, truly lived, somewhere else. I lived within the covers of books.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • in Reader's Digest ()
  • While we pay lip service to the virtues of reading, there is still in our culture something that suspects those who read too much (whatever 'too much' means) as lazy, aimless dreamers, as people who need to grow up and come outside where the real life is, as people who think themselves superior in their separateness. There is something in the American character — a certain hale and heartiness — that is suspicious of reading as anything more than a tool for advancement. America is also a nation that prizes sociability and community, that believes that alone leads to loner, loner to loser. Any sort of turning away from human contact is suspect.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • in Reader's Digest ()
  • Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • in Reader's Digest ()
  • Like playing the slots in Vegas, there is just enough of a payoff in democracy to keep us coming back for more.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • in Newsweek ()
  • An election marks the end of the affair; it puts paid to the seduction of the many by the few. Pretty words, fulsome promises. We wind up married, but to whom, to what? We cannot always predict with certainty the future leader from the winning candidate. Some men grow in the job; others are diminished by its demands and its grandeur.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • in Newsweek ()
  • Don't ever confuse the two, your life and your work.

  • You cannot be really first-rate at your work if your work is all you are.

  • All of us want to do well. But if we do not do good, too, then doing well will never be enough.

  • ... knowledge of our own mortality is the greatest gift God ever gives us.

  • Life is made up of moments, small pieces of glittering mica in a long stretch of gray cement.

  • I learned that this is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get.

  • And think of life as a terminal illness, because, if you do, you will live it with joy and passion, as it ought to be lived.

  • ... the separation of church and state grew out of a desire, not so much to protect government from religion, but to protect religion from government.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • in Newsweek ()
  • Uncontrollable consumerism has become a watchword of our culture despite regular and compelling calls for its end. The United States has more malls than high schools; Americans spend more time shopping than reading. ... Some of the most insightful writing about the American character over the nation's history has been about neither freedom nor democracy but about the crazed impulse to acquire things.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • in Newsweek ()
  • Doing nothing is something. ... Downtime is where we become ourselves ... I don't believe you can write poetry, or compose music, or become an actor without downtime, and plenty of it, a hiatus that passes for boredom but is really the quiet moving of the wheels inside that fuel creativity. ... There is also ample psychological research suggesting that what we might call 'doing nothing' is when human beings actually do their best thinking, and when creativity comes to call.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • in Newsweek ()
  • Loss as muse. Loss as character. Loss as life.

  • [President Johnson] had the political will to say that having one in five Americans living in the kind of abject conditions their fellow citizens associated with Third World countries and the novels of Dickens was as dangerous as any battlefield enemy.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • in Newsweek ()
  • Poor kids are much more likely to become sick than their richer counterparts, but much less likely to have health insurance. Talk about a double whammy.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • in Newsweek ()
  • ... part of the problem with a war on poverty today is that many Americans have decided that being poor is a character defect, not an economic condition.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • in Newsweek ()
  • Statistics show that the wealthy have prospered most in our current economy, and the unheard third at the bottom least. (But who are you gonna believe, government rhetoric about fairness for all, or your lying eyes?)

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • in Newsweek ()
  • There are those of us who believe that under certain conditions the cruelest thing you can do to people you love is to force them to live. There are those of us who define living not by whether the heart beats and the lungs lift but whether the spirit is there, whether the music box plays.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • in Newsweek ()
  • What is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.

  • ... the more humdrum aspects of life do not make for gripping reading. To render them compelling, a writer must describe the universal in eloquent and evocative prose. Alas, Frey's writing suggests that this was not an option, and he came up with something else.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • in Newsweek ()
  • ... lying matters. Truth is a rock; if you chip away at it enough, you wind up with gravel, then sand.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • in Newsweek ()
  • E-mails are letters, after all, more lasting than phone calls, even if many of them r 2 cursory 4 u.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • in Reader's Digest ()
  • A life of unremitting caution, without the carefree — or even, occasionally, the careless — may turn out to be half a life.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • in Reader's Digest ()
  • ... the most sacred business of judges is not to ratify the will of the majority but to protect the minority from its tyranny.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • in Newsweek ()
  • Now much of the country is made up of people with the acquisition habits of a 7-year-old, desire untethered from need, or the ability to pay.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • in Newsweek ()
  • Familiarity breeds content.

    • Anna Quindlen
  • Over the last twenty years, we've changed the world just enough to make it radically different, but not enough to make it work.

    • Anna Quindlen
  • You can tell a really wonderful quote by the fact that it's attributed to a whole raft of wits.

  • ... being a parent is not transaction ... we do not get what we give. It is the ultimate pay-it-forward endeavor: we are good parents not so they will be loving enough to stay with us but so they will be strong enough to leave us.

  • A safety net of small white lies can be the bedrock of a successful marriage. You wouldn't believe how cheaply I can do a kitchen renovation.

  • Real friends offer both hard truths and soft landings and realize that it's sometimes more important to be nice than to be honest.

  • Women were once permitted a mourning period for their youthful faces; it was called middle age. Now we don't even have that. Instead we have the science of embalming disguised as grooming.

  • That's what makes life so hard for women, that instead of thinking that this is the way things are, we always think it's the way we are.

  • Old is where you haven’t gotten to yet.

  • ... what we call things matters. ... The words we use, and how we perceive those words, reflect how we value, or devalue, people, places, and things.

  • You're like a cake when you're young. You can't rush it or it will fall, or just turn out wrong. Rising takes patience, and heat.

  • Plastic is magical, as though the bill will never come due.

  • As my one son says, about being a feminist boy, 'Chicks dig it.' And that's been his guiding principle.

  • After all those years as a woman hearing 'not thin enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not this enough, not that enough,' almost overnight I woke up one morning and thought, 'I am enough.'

    • Anna Quindlen
  • Don't cave to the status quo. Don't trade happiness for deferred gratification. Don't give up adventure for safety and security. The safe is the enemy of the satisfying. Deferred gratification has a way of being deferred forever.

    • Anna Quindlen,
    • commencement speech, Grinnell College ()
  • The truth about your own life is not always easy to accept, and sometimes hasn't even occurred to you.

    • Anna Quindlen
  • This is how I learn most of what I know about my children and their friends: by sitting in the driver's seat and keeping quiet.

  • ... those of us who read because we love it more than anything ... feel about bookstores the way some people feel about jewelers.

  • Trying to be perfect may be inevitable for people who are smart and ambitious and interested in the world and its good opinion.... What is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.

  • In books I have traveled, not only to other worlds, but into my own. I learned who I was and who I wanted to be, what I might aspire to, and what I might dare to dream about my world and myself.

  • Adolescence is a tough time for parent and child alike. It is a time between: between childhood and maturity, between parental protection and personal responsibility, between life stage-managed by grown-ups and life privately held.

  • Adolescence isn't a training ground for adulthood now; it is a holding pattern for aging youth.

Anna Quindlen, U.S. writer, columnist

(1953)