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Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith Paperback – February 26, 2008
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Questions for Anne Lamott
Amazon.com: This is your third book on faith. How has your perspective changed since you wrote your first one?
Lamott: I wrote my first book on faith when Bill Clinton was president, and I was in a much better mood. I wrote Plan B during the run-up to war in Iraq, and the ensuing catastrophe, so I was very angry, but trying to reconcile that pain and hostility to Jesus's insistence that we are made of love, to love, and be loved, to forgive and be forgiven. Some days went better than others. Also, my son Sam was in his early teens, and that was a LOT easier than when he turned 16 and 17, his ages when I was writing the pieces in Grace (Eventually).
In general, I think Grace (Eventually) is a less angry book. I like how I'm aging, except that my back hurts more often, my knees crack like twigs when I squat, and my memory fails more frequently, in more public and therefore humiliating ways. But I think I complain less. As my best friend said when she was dying, and I was obsessing about my butt, "You just don't have that kind of time."
Amazon.com: What does grace mean for you? How can we better communicate it to each other?
Lamott: Grace is that extra bit of help when you think you are really doomed; also, not coincidentally, when you have finally run out of good ideas on how to proceed, and on how better to control the people or circumstances that are frustrating or defeating you. I experience Grace as a cool ribbon of fresh air when I feel spiritually claustrophobic. Sometimes I experience it as water-wings, something holding me up when I am afraid that I'm going down, or the tide is carrying me away. I know that Grace meets us whereever we are, but does not leave us where it found us. Sometimes it is so small--a couple of seconds relief here, several extra inches there. I wish it were big and obvious, like sky-writing. Oh, well. Grace is not something I DO, or can chase down; but it is something I can receive, when I stop trying to be in charge.
We communicate grace to one another by holding space for people when they are hurt or terrified, instead of trying to fix them, or manage their emotions for them. We offer ourselves as silent companionship, or gentle listening when someone feels very alone. We get people glasses of water when they are thirsty.
Amazon.com: Many of the essays in Grace (Eventually) first appeared in Salon, the online magazine, and that's the way that many readers first found you. How do you see the Internet changing the way people read and write?
Lamott: The Internet makes everything so immediate and spontaneous, which I totally love--UNLESS it has to do with the immediacy of people's negative response to me. Several of the Salon pieces in Grace--for instance, the story about the horrible fight with my son, and the piece about turning the other cheek while being ripped off by The Carpet Guy--generated a couple hundred letters, many of them extremely hostile. Perhaps "spewy" would be a better description. I also sometimes get knee-jerk responses to my mentions of Jesus in my Salon pieces that seem to lump me in the same tradition as Jerry Falwell. But for the most part, I love the populism and egalitarian nature of the Internet: everyone counts the same.
Amazon.com: What stories do people tell you, when they've read your books or know you are a writer?
Lamott: People tell me how relieved they are that I try to tell the truth about how hard it can be to be a mother, or a daughter, or an American in these times. They tell me stories about how awful their own teenagers can be, or how awful they themselves behaved towards their kids or parents; how hard it was to finally be able to adore their mothers, or to forgive their fathers. They tell me their sobriety dates. They whisper to me that they are Christians, too.
Also, they ask if I am able to read their manuscripts, and the name of my agent, and my e-mail address. They ask if we are going to survive the current political difficulties--and I promise them we are. They ask how old my son is now--17 and a half--and how he is doing, which is fantastically, after some of the hard months I wrote about in Grace.
Amazon.com:What lessons do you think you can pass on to others: to your readers, to your son? What lessons does it seem like people have to learn for themselves?
Lamott: All I have to offer is my own truth, my own experience, strength and hope. I can pass on the tool of a God Box, and how for 20 years I have been putting tiny notes in mine and promising God I will keep my sticky fingers off the controls until I hear God's wisdom: sometimes I get an answer because the phone rings, or the mail comes, but at any rate, during every single terrible problem and tragedy, I have been given enough guidance and stamina and even humor to bear up, and be transformed, for the good. I always tell Sam that if you want to make God laugh, tell Her your plans. I tell Sam that if he listens to his best thinking, he will suffer: and to listen to his heart instead, to listen in the silence, and to seek wise counsel.
Amazon.com: You've written nearly a dozen books (including an incredibly popular guide to writing): does writing get any easier? Does it get harder?
Lamott: In a very important way, writing gets easier, because I've been doing it full time now for thirty-plus years, and just as you would get better and better if you practiced your scales on a piano, I've gotten better, and can try harder and harder pieces. But writing is always hard. It does not come naturally to me at all. I sit down at the same time every day, which lets my subconscious realize it's time to get to work. I give myself very short assignments, and let myself write really terrible first drafts. But I grapple with the exact same problems every writer does, which is having equal proportions of self-loathing and grandiosity. I sort of live by the Nike ads: Just Do It. So I sit down. I show up. I do it by pre-arrangement with myself, because I know I'll feel sad and terrible if I shirk on that days writing. I do it as a debt of honor, to myself, and to whatever it is that has given me this gift of being able to tell stories, and to make people laugh. Laughter is carbonated holiness. Other people's good writing is medicine for me, and I hope mine is too, for my readers.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
"Traveling Mercies" (one of my all-time favorite books) was a sprawling, messy, beautiful tale of life and faith and day-to-day struggle. "Plan B" was more of the same, but with political teeth sharpened on the grindstone of Mr. Bush's policies. "Grace (Eventually)" shows a softer side of Anne, a maturing maybe, or an acceptance of the things she cannot change. She talks about her son, her dog, her mother, her church, her city, all with a tone of reconciliation.
Don't get me wrong. Anne still wants change. She still says things that will push a lot of buttons--regarding assisted suicide and abortion, for example. She also continues to express a belief in Jesus and His teachings and His example of love and mercy. For those annoyed by the cultural environment, she gives a call to more understanding. For those who disagree with her, she also calls for grace by asking us to accept her as she is in all her authentic imperfection.
I didn't walk away from this book with sublime shock and laughter (as I did with "Traveling Mercies") or with pent-up frustration (as I did with "Plan B"), I walked away with a sense of gentleness and a desire to extend that same grace to others. I guess you could call that a success.
This book will be a good read because it will make you think--and think better. In this work Lamott shares her life and friends and family and herself. She has child-like feelings and inspired thoughts. I love writing that surprises me with simplicity and originality. That's why I love her work.
If you like this book another one of Lamott's earlier works, Bird by Bird, is an all time favorite of mine. She deals with how to become a writer. And she makes it seem possible--and like she's in your corner.
Lamott's new book, "Grace Eventually: Further Thoughts On Faith," is a collection of essays, many of which Lamott wrote as a columnist for Salon.com. If you haven't read anything by Lamott before, the best places to start would be "Traveling Mercies" (her bestselling memoir), and "Bird by Bird," (one of the best guide to writing anywhere, another bestseller). But the two things you should know before reading Anne Lamott is that 1) she is an incredible prose artist, quirky and profound, with a style that seems all her own. And 2) she is almost completely neurotic.
"Grace Eventually," is a special book in that Lamott's description of ordinary events make them feel sacred. She is a writer with an ability to make the reader pay attention, feel present, and tune in to the story taking place around them. Although she refers to Jesus consistently, there is little that seems orthodox about Lamott's spiritual journey, and perhaps that is one of the reasons she has such a wide readership.
You'd have to be made out of granite not to find something that moves you in this unique collection of essays. You would also need to adhere to Lamott's precise and strident political positions not to find at least one portion of this book infuriating. Either way, "Grace Eventually" is a provocative and unique read, and any avid reader owes it to themselves to become familiar with one of the country's top writers.
The book was somewhat spoiled for me by rants about right-wingers and George W. Bush and abortion and various other things. Being shrill is not the badge of authentic humanity. Lamott needs to extend some grace to those with whom she disagrees without demonizing them. In fact, if such an approach could be extended to our entire culture we would be better by far.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Err. She rant and raves about President Bush and abortion. And comes across self righteous and judgmental. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Jean Twain
I love Anne Lamott. Simple, funny, deeply spiritual writing for a world where sound-bites have become the norm. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Susannah L. Sulzman
Agree 100 percent with "used to like Anne Lamott" -- very disappointed to find political bias in this book. The book went in the trash.Published 7 months ago by Nancy J Cohen
Anne Lamott is one of my favorite authors! Wanted to re-read the book - my original was lost in a flood!Published 7 months ago by Joan
Used to like Anne Lamott but her blatant anger and strong political leanings have turned me off. Bait and switch....start with spiritual and switch to political. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Bette in Bedford