Quinn Cummings was, to me, the woman of the obscure words. I began following her on Twitter because she would playfully contextualize words that make my run-of-the-mill dictionary furrow its brow. In 140 character bursts, she is funny and self-deprecating and often insightful. From Twitter I found her blog, The QC Report, which expands those characteristics with tales of her life with Consort and Daughter, psychotic kittens, and other observations of everyday life.
But Quinn Cummings turned out to be many other surprising things, including inventor (of the HipHugger baby sling) and Oscar-nominated former child star (of The Goodbye Girl). That alone might make her seem intimidatingly accomplished — if it weren't for the fact that she writes about herself as a hapless, well-meaning outsider, raising a child while juggling work and her own self-doubts. She struggles to make a difference, to be the person she wants to be, only to walk into walls again and again. And I don't just mean that metaphorically.
Her recent book, Notes From The Underwire: Adventures From My Awkward And Lovely Life, manages to capture hilarious and often poignant anecdotes of a life like no other. Yet she does so in a way that is sure to make many readers feel a kinship with her emotions, if not her exact experiences.
It's a very funny book but there's some poignancy too, such as your mother's lymphoma, volunteering for the HIV hotline, even the closeness with which you describe family. Did you think a lot about tone and/or an underlying theme to the entire book, or did you approach each story as a separate anecdote? Was it a similar or different approach to blogging for you?
There's no subject so unequivocally joyous that I can't find some minor note of wistfulness in it. I'm not so gifted of a writer that I can think ahead of time about the tone I want to take, but I will say that even the happiest topic is eventually going to take on an elegiac air.
Here's an example; I had just given birth. Consort had whisked off with the newborn babe to watch her get the infant indignities attended to; I was in the recovery room, waiting around to get the feeling back in my toes. I was blindingly happy in that way you're happy when you've finally met the person you've waited your entire adult life to meet and she's even better than you hoped. And then, without warning, I thought, "Note this moment, because you'll never have a three minute-old baby again." See how I was perfectly happy and then noted how time was irrevocably slipping away? The blog, the book, every single anecdote I tell ultimately has a whiff of "WE'RE ALL MORTAL AND ARE GOING TO DIE." Now, don't you want to invite me over to dinner?