A Book Lover Laments
Her Author Worship
(Why I Love Anne Lamott
And Why She'll Never Friend Me)
by Kathy Coogan
My favorite fiction-reads are character-driven with the plot a natural progression of the characters' actions, not the other way around. Because of this I sometimes make assumptions about the authors which may or may not be accurate and which really don’t matter.
But one author keeps few secrets from her readers: Anne Lamott. God! I love her books. She is an inventor of lovely, quirky, complicated characters, an author who knows children’s fears especially, and she leaves little to surmise about herself.
Ms. Lamott, from my beginnings with her, reading Bird by Bird, a book which purported to be about writing, but was really the best of memoir, laid herself out there. Her addiction, recovery, sex-life, fears, hatreds, humiliations, losses, body image issues, motherhood, family and faith are as exposed as a house after a tornado has ripped its roof off.
Her compulsion for funny and despondent self-revelation is as deep as her late addiction to booze, pills, cigarettes and food, suggesting that she battles it as well---“Wait, wait, wait. Shall I tell this? Shall I? Oh, what the hell!”
Ms. Lamott, (I want so much to call her Anne) writes most profoundly and with self-deprecating grace (a word that appears frequently in her several books) about her spiritual path and the detours and mechanical breakdowns along the way. Her story is one of the Good Samaritan and Lazarus and Jesus himself who, as a child, just like us, had to learn to read (at age six, Ms. Lamott believes, while she, herself, was a self-taught prodigy at four.)
Her mentors are ministers, feminists, Jesuits and AA’s (whom she honors with anonymity) and yogis and poets like Gerard Manley Hopkins, who as a Jesuit-poet overlaps the categories.
I admire her and love her in the many ways I love my many women friends. I can imagine drinking tea with her (though I prefer coffee) and laughing and crying about my own mistakes and stumbles, and accomplishments and pride.
But this fantasy will never happen. There is one enormous barrier, besides her fame and my lack of it. Ms. Lamott hates, no, she HATES conservatives, even the fiscal-only, libertarian-leaning ones, which I am proud to be, though an MMOB (Mind My Own Business) type, open-minded and somewhat casual about the whole thing.
She has forgiven everyone for everything, accepting amends for scenarios that you can’t imagine---except those of us, center and right of center politically. She writes about her hatred and tries to express a small regret but feels justified and righteous in this particular personal intolerance.
In my life, politics exists like geography--- it’s there but irrelevant to my friendships. If I love South Carolina and Florida and you are a Colorado-Montana or New York-Connecticut sorta gal, we can still be friends.
We’ll find a connection in books or doing good deeds (some conservatives do that, too, Ms. Lamott) or playing or trying to understand grief or our children or appreciating the wonders of a summertime tomato. The best part of each of us will find the other’s compatibilities.
It saddens me in a painless, non-dramatic way, that Anne Lamott would hate me, find me unworthy of friendship because of her misunderstanding of what I am; not who, but what. It also says something about me that perhaps Ms. Lamott could benefit from. Something that occurs on a "need to know basis, like learning parenting."
It’s this: I’ll continue to buy her books, revel in her poetic, familiar, self-absorbed creativity and love the part of her that seeks selective spiritual comfort for all that ails her. So maybe just maybe, if not a friend, she’ll let me remain a fan.
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