Literary Hook: Where have you been all my life, Anne Lamott?

Sometimes a writer “happens” into your life who makes you ask, “Where have you been all my life?”

Anne Lamott is that writer for me. While at the Rockford Public Library a few weeks ago, I stumbled across one of her newest collections, Grace, Eventually—a title that really caught my eye. I loved the ironic and playful Eventually. The personal essays, vignettes, and reflections in this book were refreshing in their candor, wit, vulnerability, and originality.

Anne Lamott doesn’t annoy me with platitudes and prescriptions. She does not tread the waters of narrow-minded belief, but swims (often upstream) the turbulent waters of living and acting faith.

A big bonus for me is she is irreverent, complicated, and very humorous—all of which creates an engaging, authentic and sparkling style that is both entertaining and deeply poignant. She is not perfect, nor is her writing, and that, too, is a bonus.

Informed by the zeitgeist of Marin County, including the oldest alternative cultural mecca of Bolinas, Anne Lamott’s essays shine with California vernacular without ever edging into New Age mumbo jumbo. Her street-smart language, personal confessions, and love of the imperfect characters that create her Christian faith community, keep her writing edgy and lively.

She is a Christian writer who struggles with the political/religious climate of America. She suffers and worries about it, as do many of us. She offers no clipped, sanctimonious, self-righteous or easy answers as antidotes to a fearful, angry and sometimes misguided patriotism. The struggle for her to live out her Christian faith has led her to an unlikely community of believers who comfort and challenge her.

After reading Grace, Eventually, I went on an Anne Lamott binge—which I am still on. I recommend Traveling Mercies, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, Operating Instructions and Bird by Bird (a book for writers).

I’ll get back to you on Bird by Bird and Blue Shoe (a novel) in another column. Meantime, check her out!

Christine Swanberg is a local author and poet who has written several books of poetry and formerly wrote a column called “The Writer’s Garret” for this newspaper.

from the Oct. 17-23, 2007, issue

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