Because life is a series of edits

Listening to Lamott

In Books, Writers on March 11, 2008 at 8:40 am

Last night my nine-year-old and I went to hear author Anne Lamott read from her new book, Grace (Eventually). The setting for the evening was the “sanctuary” of the Ethical Society of St. Louis, and the place was packed with at least 500-600 folks eager to hear Lamott’s random but winsome thoughts about writing, politics, and religion. Judging by their response, she did not disappoint.

I’ve read four of Lamott’s books: Bird by Bird (her book on writing); Blue Shoe (a novel – eh); Operating Instructions (a journal of her son’s first year of life); and Traveling Mercies (her first book on “faith”). I think we have Plan B (more thoughts on faith) somewhere on the shelf, and I’ve read various essays she’s written for Salon over the years.

In other words, I’m a fan.

Lamott makes no bones about her political distaste for all things Republican (especially George Bush and Dick Cheney), but there was almost none of the verbal expletives or berating for which I had prepared my daughter and myself (though I’m no fan, either); when she wasn’t gracious, she was super-clever in making her points, and she found a supportive crowd for her most stinging critiques.

Lamott’s personal story is one of redemption to be sure – single mother battling alcohol addiction finds way back to church and writes her way out of a bad situation. She wears (and shows) the scars of her life admirably in the stories she writes and in the change she lives, and it was fun hearing more of these in her own voice (if you’ve read any of her work, she’s as funny in person as she is in her writing).

And yet, as good as Lamott is on the details of her craft, she glosses over quite a bit when it comes to religion. Jesus “works” for her, yes, but she’s very accommodating to “one mountain, many paths” thinking (or at least she said so last night). Heavily influenced by the feminist movement, liberation theology (read: Christian socialism) and her PCUSA church in Marin County, CA, when asked about the most influential man and woman in her life, Lamott named her politically active parents (both now deceased), though that influence was both for the good (her father) and the bad (her mother). It was both a touching yet bittersweet reflection.

We didn’t stick around for the book sale/signing afterward, but I’ll probably read the new book on grace (eventually). Regardless, what last night confirmed to me was that Lamott still seems to be Lamott, and though I have questions as to what she says she believes, I take much joy in who she is.

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  1. i love anne lamott as well–i wish she was my neighbor and/or sister-in-law. sadly, i missed her night here in st. louis due to ignorance. but i’m glad you were able to go.

  2. Lamott would be fun to have as a neighbor, so long as you don’t mind showing up in her next collection of essays in some way, shape, or form. The woman is amazing with capturing the everyday and turning it into a metaphor for something.

  3. I have loved Lamott’s works since I read Traveling Mercies a few years ago. Bird by Bird is definitely my favorite. But Grace Eventually? A chapter midway through was tough for this very pro-life reader to swallow, and it made the rest of the novel challenging to read as well.

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