I am an unabashed Amy Dickinson fan. I first came across Dickinson via her advice-columnist appearances on Talk of The Nation and her weekend stints as a panelist on my favorite Saturday morning radio show. I love her kind manner. I love her honest humor. I love her fantastic warm-staccato-giggle-laugh.
She gave a reading from her recent memoir yesterday afternoon at my new on-campus home. A sizeable crowd turned out despite the weather. We were greeted with huge trays of cookies (yummmm), hot tea in oversized white cups and saucers (oooooooh), and a sweet and lovely rendition of the story of the journey Dickinson and her daughter, Emily Mason (now a junior at the William and Mary), took to deliver Mason to Williamsburg her freshman year of college (awwwwww).
In 2003, Dickinson took over Ann Landers’ newspaper column after Landers’ death. I’m not sure I’ve ever read Dickinson’s column (alas, I’m a New-York-Times-online gal), but she has surely charmed me over the radio!
The Q&A after the reading was heavily skewed to questions about the column. I considered outing myself as the lone NPR geek in the crowd by asking my burning question: How much of the wonderful and seemingly-spontaneous comedy in “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” is scripted beforehand? But I decided I didn’t really want to know the answer, suspecting that I’d regret my newfound knowledge every time I listened to the show, and so I stayed mute.
One elderly woman asked Dickinson how she handled the pressure of stepping into Ann Landers’ formidable shoes. Dickinson responded that with every career she’s ever had, when the pressure has felt overwhelming, she has told herself — honestly and sincerely — that she only had to stay on the job through the next Friday, and then she could quit if she wanted to. Friday after Friday has come and gone, and as each has passed, she has chosen to stay.
I decided to adopt that policy for myself. It just may be the only thing that pulls me through to the end of this dissertation! And when I head back to upstate New York to defend, I’ll find myself a short 20 minutes from Freeville, Dickinson’s hometown, the place in which her memoir is set, the place she returned to collect herself after life had given her a pummeling. The place she started anew!