Anna Quindlen •
Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake •
Anna Quindlen is at her best when she’s most personal; her particular gift lies in formulating with ringing clarity what you already feel deep down to be true, but could never have expressed half so well.
Lots of Candles is less a traditional memoir than a series of essays where Quindlen reflects on what she’s learned in six decades of life. In one passage she describes getting frustrated with a malfunctioning Cuisinart—until she realizes the appliance is more than 30 years old. “After all that time I should have delivered an impassioned eulogy for the thing instead of hitting it with a spatula.” This observation segues neatly into “If the human body had a warranty, mine would have run out ages ago.”
Which, in turn, reminds her of an Agatha Christie story where a character’s age is revealed by the state of her knees—except that Quindlen can’t quite recall which book this happens in. (For the record, it’s Cat Among the Pigeons. You’re welcome, Anna.) “One of the great things about being the age that I am now and having a reliably unreliable memory is that I can reread mystery novels.”
With the same good humor, she considers her single days (”eating ice cream for dinner with a beer chaser”), her husband (“We’re part of a mixed marriage: he’s male, I’m female”), and the general level of contentment among her friends: “Almost everyone . . . winds up admitting that they’re happier now than they were when they were young. They feel as if they’ve settled into their own skin, even if that skin has sun damage.”
In fact, every subject sooner or later circles back to one fundamental truth: “The older we get, the better we get at being ourselves.”
Hey, I knew that.