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A choice aspect of getting older is the willingness to ask “why” and getting the answer, deciding to follow one’s own inclinations.
“The hard and fast rules don’t seem hard and fast to me at all,” said Anna Quindlen. “Go ahead! What have you got to lose?”
A keen societal observer, Ms. Quindlen, 60, is gifted with clarity of language and the ability to tell a fine story.
She read passages from her aptly named 2012 book about aging, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, in the Stranahan Theater on Wednesday evening. The 560 attendees were largely a reflection of herself: female, middle aged or older, and white; they nodded and chuckled knowingly at much of what she said.
Her appearance was part of the Authors! Authors! series co-sponsored by The Blade and the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.
Wearing large, dark-rimmed glasses and a gold jacket, Ms. Quindlen repeatedly pushed a shank of hair over her ear while reading passages from the book. For 35 years, she has written novels and essays, winning a 1992 Pulitzer Prize for her New York Times’ “Public & Private” column on topics such as abortion, the Persian Gulf War, and the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. For decades, her popular essays, also published in Newsweek magazine, have given a liberal voice to the Baby Boomer demographic.
Aging may be a welcome respite when compared to the way many Boomer women started out, trying to devise some generally acceptable notion of femininity, which was often fraught with self denial and a continuously looping “you’re not good enough” message.
“It may be that all people become more of whatever they mostly are as they grow older, the good as well as the bad: more outspoken, less inhibited, funnier, more gregarious. Sometimes it seems as though age strips away the furbelows, the accessories, and leaves the essential person,” she wrote.
She referenced a friend who said upon the birth of her grandchild, “you’re never too old to have the best day of your life.”
Conversation about aging often revolves around physical decline: hip replacements, failing eyesight, flagging libido, or being passed over at work.
But the elephant in the room, the shadow that never really goes away, is mortality. Ms. Quindlen was 19 when her mother died of ovarian cancer at 40.
“I’ve learned so much about myself in these last few years,” she said. “We’re still here; that should be cause for celebration.”
The fall lineup for Authors! Authors! is expected to be announced soon.
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