Anna Quindlen is one of my sheroes. I love everything she writes. I got to spend a couple of minutes with Anna yesterday after she participated in the luncheon q and a (with Lee Woodruff) at the More Magazine Reinvention Convention. Some highlights from the lunch after the interview.
Women and Hollywood: What do you think the biggest challenges facing women today are?
Anna Quindlen: I think that there is a widespread perception that women are represented at every level in every profession that’s not true. And while entry level jobs are now not only 50/50 but sometimes 60/40 or 70/30, when you get to the top levels it’s still a guy’s club and I think that the leadership lid has got to come off.
WaH: What’s your favorite thing to read?
AQ: When I am revising a book I can’t read literary fiction because I find that I pick up other people’s tics so I read mystery novels consistently. I read Laura Lippman, the wonderful Denise Mina, Michael Connelly, Harlan Coben, Ian Rankin – a whole group of mystery novelists. I think that we have a a lot of mystery novelists who are as much novelists as they are mystery writers. I’d say that about Laura for instance and that didn’t used to be true 30 or 40 years ago. Agatha Christie was really good at what she did, but what she did was pretty narrow. Today we have this great group of novelists who happen to work in that field.
W&H: Aside from the NY Times what do you read every day?
WaH: You were talking about your daughter and the millenials and how awesome they are and I’ve noticed that there have been many generational skirmishes going on between your daughter’s generation and your generation. It seems not helpful.
AQ: I can’t agree with you more and I hope we stop. Women of my age – I’m 58 – we’ve done a lot, seen a lot, changed a lot, but women in their 20s now are really strong, smart, kick-ass young women and I don’t want anyone taking them to task.
WaH: Talk a little bit about politics and the upcoming midterm election.
AQ: We are at a very dispiriting moment. There is no compromise. There is not working together. You sometimes get the impression that the Republicans ruling ethos is if he (Obama) wants it we are against it. But the Democrats have not done much better. I think the paralysis and the gridlock is as bad as I can ever remember it.
WaH: What do you think about Sarah Palin and the Mama Grizzlies?
AQ: I don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about Sarah Palin. I think she is a complete non starter for 2012. I don’t think the Republican leadership would allow her to be there. I mean the Republican leadership will learn something from the election results in Delaware which will cement their resolve that Sarah Palin cannot be as successful major party candidate for 2012 for the presidency.
WaH: Is there anything you miss about journalism?
AQ: I don’t yet but I bet there will come a moment when I will. I had just gone to Newsweek after 5 years working full time as a novelist at the time of Sept 11th and I thought at the time if I had not been in the business then I would have gone out of my mind. It seemed that journalism was one of the only antidotes to what had happened. So I would not be at all surprised if an event takes place that makes me think oh if only I had a column. But it hasn’t happened yet.
WaH: Did you have any reaction to the Franzenfreude kerfluffle?
AQ: Look at the Nicole Krauss treatment in Sunday’s book review. I think there is a fair number of anointed women in the pack too and I think most writers would be wiser to concentrate on the role of the digital book and how we are basically running wround like chicken with our heads cut off not knowing how to respond to this new technology rather than sniping at one another.
WaH: You’ve had experience in Hollywood selling your books for TV and film. Do you have any advice?
AQ: It seems completely mysterious to me and it’s always for my part an arms length agreement. I’ve never written any of the screenplays, the deals seem to somehow magically get made with the help of the brilliant ICM agents who represent me. But actually in terms of women and Hollywood the reason I have a deal for Every Last One my newest novel is totally because of girlfriend moviemaking — ie Meryl Streep is going to produce it at Sony Pictures. When she was attached to the project and Sandra Bullock was attached to the project suddenly it became a feasible project.
WaH: Did it have anything to do with Amy Pascal?
AQ: I don’t know Amy Pascal but I gather she is enthusiastic about it. But Meryl has never produced a movie before – Meryl and Scott Rudin are producing and Sandra Bullock is attached.
Other pearls of wisdom form the luncheon q and a:
- Fear is the biggest motivating force for every bad thing we do in America.
- We were naive when Obama got elected. There is always a backlash.
- The great things in life come out of risk.
- Failure is a chance for retrenchment.
- She has never once been asked by a young man how to balance work and family. Young men believe they will have a work/family balance by getting married.
Disclosure: While I had never met Anna before yesterday, she is on the honorary board of the Athena Film Festival which I am producing.