Monday, August 18, 2014

Still Life with Bread Crumbs (Quindlen), first impressions

Anna Quindlen, Still Life with Bread Crumbs: A Novel(New York: Random House, 2014).

While I'm no more than a third of the way into Anna Quindlen's Still Life with Bread Crumbs, I must say that it had me at  "the Walmart squatting aggressively just off the highway" (p.4), because-- yes, there is something in-your-face about a rural Walmart, isn't there?

So far, this is the story of a once-celebrated photographer whose fame (and royalties) have dwindled away, leading her to relocate from NYC to a mildewy small-town cottage in the hope of saving money and rekindling inspiration.  And so far, also, what I'm loving about it is Quindlen's ability to indict phoniness-- in this case, urbane intellectual posing-- without sounding like a teenager.

Refreshingly, the photographer, Rebecca Winter, doesn't overthink her own art.  "She mainly found her good work to be accidental, and immediate.  She shot Ben's toy truck, the garlic press and the cutting board. . . . And somehow, sometimes, it worked."  A moment later:  "She had not labored over them [photographs], or transformed them with the gift of her eye, at least not so she could tell.  She just felt them." (pp. 78-79)

I have the sense that Rebecca had used to feel inferior to the academic crowd; and that now, in her 60s, she has matured beyond that need to impress.

Another bit that I especially liked, on climbing trees:  "It was harder than warrior pose in yoga, than teaser in Pilates, than the elliptical or the Reformer.  Rebecca thought that if no one had thought of it yet, soon enough someone in the city would spearhead a craze for tree climbing in Central and Prospect Parks, and it would become the talk of every cocktail party: have you tried that large oak by the Sheep Meadow?  Oh, it completely changed my body."  (p.82)

And this made me chuckle:  "It was one of those statements that sounded sensible until you compared it against actual human psychology."  (p. 101)

The book's pace reminds me of cool, flowing water.  I'm enjoying it.

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