Anna Quindlen

Uncle Sam Wants You?

Some news events have a way of concentrating the mind. There's reading about three sisters serving in Iraq, about the death of one and the agony of the surviving two, who must decide whether to return home for good.


In 1981 I interviewed a couple named Stanley and Julie Patz. Perhaps the last name rings a bell. Twenty-five years ago, their 6-year-old son, Etan, left his family's lower Manhattan loft for the schoolbus stop two blocks away and vanished.


Thank you, Howard Dean. You were the right guy at the right time running for the wrong office. It wasn't just those ill-conceived comments that did you in, or even the parade-of-states scream in Iowa, that overplayed sound bite of a man who clearly had been running on adrenaline for far too long.


And now for a short quiz: How many amendments are there in the Constitution? How many times may a senator be re-elected? Which president was the first commander in chief of the U.S. military?


On New Year's Eve we have long played a parlor game called Desert Island: Which book would you take if you could take only one? Which movie, which CD? In a self-serving move--because you never know what al dente idea will stick to the wall of columnizing--I asked our guests this year which Democratic presidential candidate they would take with them.


I was something of an accidental mother. I don't mean that in the old traditional whoops! way; it's just that while I barreled through my 20s convinced that having a baby would be like carrying a really large and inconvenient tote bag that I could never put down, I awoke one day at 30 and, in what now seems an astonishingly glib leap of faith, decided I wanted that tote bag in the very worst way.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

One of the more harrowing moments in the movie version of "Angels in America" comes when an ill Roy Cohn is disputing his doctor's diagnosis. Cohn was a right-wing Republican wheeler-dealer, former Joe McCarthy henchman and, in Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, so damned for his part in the anti-communist excesses of half a century ago that he is haunted by the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg.

Peace On Earth Good Will.Com

One of the biggest growth industries in America appears to be the storage facility. We've all seen them sprawling along the overpass or tucked into the back of an industrial park, long, low buildings divided within into locked cubicles.

A New Kind Of Poverty

Winter flits in and out of New York City in the late fall, hitching a ride on the wind that whips the Hudson River. One cold morning not long ago, just as day was breaking, six men began to shift beneath their blankets under a stone arch up a rise from the water.

Not A Womb In The House

Sometimes the pictures do tell the story. There was a raft of wire-service photographs of invited guests saluting the president as he signed a bill banning a late-abortion procedure.

Don't Touch That Remote

I wouldn't say I watch a lot of television. I watch "Law & Order," natch, and "Law & Order: SVU" and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," and "Law & Order: Trading Spaces" and "Law & Order With Brian Williams" and "Law & Order With Regis and Kelly." I watched "The Osbournes" until I realized that everyone else had stopped watching it, and why--if I want to see a dog have an accident, I can do it here at home, and with better-looking dogs--and I watched "Newlyweds" with Jessica (Mensa) Simpson until...

Still Needing The F Word

Let's use the f word here. People say it's inappropriate, offensive, that it puts people off. But it seems to me it's the best way to begin, when it's simultaneously devalued and invaluable.Feminist.

We Are Here For Andrea

A motley collection of items have wound up on the bulletin board in the past year. There was a list of phone numbers for one kid's college, and now there is a list of phone numbers for another's.

A Shock To The System

Whenever you run into a bear out here in the country, someone will invariably ask if it was big. I never really know how to answer. All bears appear large to me, even the cubs.

Justice Rip Van Winkle

Bless the federal judiciary. Sure, its members are not perfect--way too many white guys to be truly representative, for one thing--but in this system we call checks and balances, appointed judges with life tenure seem to be all that stands between American citizens and sycophantic leadership.

The Bottom Line: Bogus

Public libraries have become the new poster children for governmental impecunity. Pick a town, any town, and the library, that great nexus of egalitarian self-improvement, is currently in trouble.

Say Goodbye To The Virago

Hillary. Now that I have your attention, here's the inside scoop on the book, from someone who hasn't read it yet but knows the subject: she worked hard, she did well, she had doubts, she made mistakes, she didn't know, she found out, she freaked out, she went on, she worked hard, she did well.Yep, it's the story of Everywoman.

A Correction: Not A Crisis

How many civilians can ask the same question about your business before you start to pay attention? In the strange and horrible case of Jayson Blair and The New York Times, the query is ubiquitous. "Isn't everyone overreacting to this a little bit?" one woman said with a puzzled frown at a charity lunch while those around her nodded.The answer is yes.There's no need to recap the story of the reporter and his heinous print rip-offs.

Say Farewell To Pin Curls

This balmy stretch from Easter until the end of school in June always reminds me of my mother messing around with my hair. Too often the kitchen smelled like the wallpaper was being chemically removed because of the fumes from Tonette, the home permanent for little girls.

Tort Reform At Gunpoint

Under cover of darkness--or a relentless media focus on the Iraqi war, which amounted to the same thing--the House of Representatives recently passed a bill that made a single industry largely immune from lawsuits.That industry is the one that makes and sells guns.If a hospital leaves a sponge in your midsection, you can sue.

The Sounds Of Silence

Last month a United Way chapter in Florida disinvited the actress Susan Sarandon from a fund-raising luncheon at which she'd agreed to speak. This was scarcely surprising.

Not So Safe Back Home

When the news broke that the rape of female cadets had become nearly as commonplace at the Air Force Academy as midterms or maneuvers, it came as a shock to most Americans accustomed to thinking of the service colleges as bastions of the very best.But for those familiar with sexual assault in the military, and the role of women in the armed forces, the horrifying stories had an inevitable tinge of same-old same-old.

Some Strange Spring Break

Weirder than anything you've seen on "Cops," scarier than the Sci Fi Channel, more changes of plans than "Trading Spaces," more Francophobe comments than "National Lampoon's European Vacation": welcome to Spring Break '03!Or: how Kissimmee, Fla., suddenly seemed more attractive to those intent on travel than Tuscany.Below, a more or less accurate representation of some of the dialogue on the telephone, in e-mail exchanges, at airports and in family rooms on the subject of the much-beloved...

Waiting, One Hand Behind

I am waiting for something. I'm not sure exactly what it is until my father calls. He is equal parts exasperated and anguished, a man who reads history voraciously and yet is now flabbergasted by current events. "We don't attack first," he says. "That's a given.

'Are You Hot?' Is It Nuclear?

The morning after the Michael Jackson interview aired in the United States, the Feds raised the terror-alert level to high. The connection is apparent. Only people living in a panic caldron set to simmer could sit through two hours of the faded pop star's insisting on the normalcy of his own weird existence behind a surgically altered mask more stylized and impenetrable than those he makes his children wear in public.What a long strange trip it's been, these past 18 months.