Friday, April 9, 2010

Reading with Anne Lamott

Each has to enter the nest
made by the other imperfect bird.
~ Rumi

Thursday evening I had the pleasure of listening to Anne Lamott read selections from the first chapter of her new novel Imperfect Birds. The title of the book Lamott took from the Rumi quote above. (I think it's stunning.)

Lamott is a treat to meet in person. She's wry and witty — there was lots of laughter among the over-flow crowd at one of our local Border's Books — down-to-earth (trademark dreadlocks and comfortable jeans), and one of the most authentic voices around.

As Lamott moved through the rows of fans, signing her book, everyone wanted to know about her son Sam; so before beginning her reading Lamott told us that Sam is now 20, has an eight-month-old whom he adores, and is constantly at her house "munching" and "mooching". He's found a vocation in art and become, Lamott says, what every mother could ever want of a child of her own.

Lamott gave a little of the backstory for Imperfect Birds but made clear there's no need to buy and read her earlier novels, Rosie (1997) and Crooked Little Heart (1998), to understand the characters she's reprised. And then Lamott read, having determined that the time she'd spend reading had to be under 18 minutes to keep people interested. She calculated she'd read about 16 minutes. The reading might have gone longer, had the audience had a say.

When Lamott reads the words she's gotten into print, you don't hear her "reading"; she reads the way she talks—rather, the way adults like you and me talk, the way teens talk when they think adults aren't around, and the way adults and teens talk together, or not. You "get" the voices. And you "get" something else: the insights into drinking and drugging and sex from "friends with benefits", how connections are made and lost within and without families, what it's like to feel "outside" a circle to which you'd like to belong, how our kids just want to be loved and turn in and then out looking for what they don't know they already have.

At the conclusion of her reading, Lamott opened the floor to questions, which she answered with honesty and candor. I made note of a few notable quotes to share with you. 

✦ Grace is a God who meets you where you are, not where you've left Him.

✦ Laughter is carbonated holiness.

✦ The most important thing you can say is, "I get it." You don't have to act on it.

✦ If you want things to make sense, to "get it", go watch a Special Olympics. Everything you need to know you can find there.

✦ You are loved and chosen exactly the way you are.

✦ Every single person counts the same.

✦ Other people have the information that you need. So always carry a pen. And if you don't have fair skin, always carry some paper.

✦ Quoting Maya Angelous, "The function of freedom is to free someone else."

✦ This place has not been a good match for a lot us. You can get lost. You can also get found.

✦ I resist the impulse to "save" people. My passion is to be just a tiny light in the world, to know what works and what doesn't.

✦ Talking about one of her "concerns", Lamott says that parents have to stop being addicted to the feeling of being friends to their kids. Being a friend to your kids can be dangerous.

✦ If you want to write, then write. Lamott called a "crock" the excuses people give for not writing. If you say, for example, that you are going to write when . . . [insert excuse], you never will.

✦ You have to discover your habits and rhythms before you can get better. You have to be willing to be really bad and then keep showing up.

Lamott mentioned the article "Time Lost and Found", in Sunset magazine. In it, she talked about what it takes to create the life you deserve. Some of us on FaceBook have shared the article. Be sure to read it for the wisdom and sanity it imparts.


Laura said...

I am green with envy. And these quotes! Tell me...did you write them on your skin? or carry paper?

She is a character, one I think all Christians can learn from. Thanks for sharing this good stuff.

Mama Zen said...

Laughter is carbonated holiness. That may be the perfect description

S. Etole said...

This causes me to wish I would have been there ...

Cassandra Frear said...

There is so much to be explored in many of these quotes. Thanks for sharing this with us.

Sandra Heska King said...

Can you spell g-r-e-e-n?

Praise and Coffee said...

~sigh, wish I could have been there, thanks for sharing!

Graceful said...

I love her! I saw her read in Omaha and in St. Paul -- she is so funny! Great recap...and thanks for those quotes!

Kathleen said...

You captured the experience well enough for us to feel like we were there. Almost. I've been looking forward to this Maureen! A big thank you. :)

NoVA Dad said...

I was at this same event, and it was a wonderful evening! I'm so glad you also posted about it - I have also done so and enjoy reading the perspectives of others on the same gathering. Great post!

lucy said...

jealous!!! thanks for the head's up on her new book. i've always enjoyed her non-fiction more, but this sounds like it's worth a look.