Quinn Cummings, author of “Notes from the Underwire: Adventures from my Awkward and Lovely Life” (Harper Collins Hyperion Books, 2009), leads off the second Idyllwild Authors Series. Once again, presenter Eduardo Sanitago has booked 10 A-list Los Angeles authors for his weekly series that begins with Cummings at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 20 at the Ink bookstore on North Circle.
There are many things to know about Cummings, but the first is that she is an obsessively self-deprecating writer and very, very funny — the kind of laugh-out-loud funny a reader seldom encounters on the written page, as evidenced by the many fan comments on her blog The QC Report (www.qcreport.com).
Other milestones along Cummings’ journey recounted in her book include a nomination for Best Supporting Actress at the age of nine (when the female nominee was still called “actress”) for “The Goodbye Girl” with Richard Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason), a recurring role on the popular television show “Family” and her invention of the HipHugger child-carrying device produced by a company she headed until she sold it.
And although grateful that people are interested in her past, she said it is the “now” she is focused on and wishes that others interested in her would also be interested in that. She recalls, with weary humor, the many “where are they now” interviews she has had to endure, including one in which the interviewer asked her, “Do you wish you’d been one of those child actors who actually made it as an adult?” and “How are you making a living now?”
She riffed about what she sees as the intrusiveness of those kinds of questions. “People don’t actually think before they ask questions of people they have seen on television in their childhood … So now I’m going to answer the question that underlies the same intrusive questions I’ve been asked for two decades: ‘Quinn, why aren’t you nuts? Why aren’t you squatting semi-naked on some street corner, having a weave-pulling battle with a transsexual and huffing Febreze?’” She also writes that along the way she acquired a significant other, “consort” and gave birth to a daughter “daughter.”
In her books (her second one, “The Year of Learning Dangerously,” is due out in September 2012) and blog Cummings proffers her self-deprecating and excruciatingly funny anecdotal moments and insights. When asked how to characterize her writing, Cummings said, “I’m a miniaturist specializing in personal discomfort.” The personal discomfort is always her own.
“If I am in the middle of something going badly, that’s when I turn on my personal [interior] tape recorder.” She explains it is the small things she sees or experiences that intrigue her. “I don’t have the long overview,” she said. “I’ll leave that to authors like Shelby Foote. If I were writing about the Civil War I’d be writing about myself in the war describing the fungal infection in my foot.”
She said metaphors are a key component in her writing. “Remember our SAT tests, the metaphor section? I loved those,” she said. “I did not get a lot of gifts, but I think in metaphors. I can’t rest until I figure out what something is like. I don’t like anything where there is only one answer. It’s mildly obsessive. I won’t write until I figure out what the metaphor is.”
As an example from her blog: “Being interviewed is an inherently weird social interaction. It’s like a blind date. A blind date where only one person gets to ask questions, can ask whatever questions he likes, and the other person can’t sneak out the back door if things get too uncomfortable.” In writing about volunteering with her daughter in Kanab, Utah at Best Friends Animal Society and Sanctuary, taking a dying cat out into the sun for her sedentary “walk”, Cummings moves deftly from humorous to touching with her use of metaphor: “Dying is hard, but dying also means sitting on the sand, feeling the sun on your face … Because while she was dying, she was still a cat, once we situated her blanket in the shade, she immediately stood up, tottered off the blanket, and sprawled in the sun.”
Asked what else she’d like people to know about her Cummings said, “If a person reading this has appreciated anything I’ve done or has supported my work, I want to say thank you. I love hearing from others.” About her writing and her journey, Cummings noted, “It’s daunting and nice to be continuing to learn like this.”
Santiago’s series is free to attendees. Copies of Cummings’ book will be available at INK prior to her talk.