Saturday 21 October 2017

Mind your mouth

Annie Dillard, Anne Fadiman, Anne Lamott. They are filed in my "mind" in the same bin. Maybe it is something so superficial as the fact they run variations on a common first name, but probably it's coupled with the fact that I started reading them at the same time. The other thing is that they write really well, I fact I've reflected on before in the case of Dillard and Fadiman. Now is the time for a bit of parity of esteem for Anne Lamott who is the most difficult of the Trinitanny.  I think the only book of hers I've read is Bird by Bird; some instructions of writing and life, which is both insightful and a stitch.  It's also holding its original price on Amazon better than Ex Libris [Fadiman] or Pilgrim at Tinker's Creek [Dillard].

Bird by Bird's title comes from an anecdote about Lamott's father and her younger brother who, as a teenager, was experiencing writer's block over a daunting essay on ornithology. The father's advice was "Bird by Bird, Buddy" in the sense that all great journeys start with a single step but that without that first step you'll spend the rest of your life unfulfilled on your sofa. Addressing a massive entangled problem by finding a small knot and tugging - just to do something - is what I have called a Javi Problem. Lamott, like many women, had an uneasy relationship with her mother whose was uniquely infuriating to her daughter. But their relationship softened a little when Lamott became a single parent in her mid-30s: granny and grandson were besotted with each other and that helped Annie-in-the-middle see more virtue in the older woman.

That boy Sam, features in a brilliant anecdote in Bird by Bird which I'll defy copyright by quoting here in full:
“My son, Sam, at three and a half, had these keys to a set of plastic handcuffs, and one morning he intentionally locked himself out of the house. I was sitting on the couch reading the newspaper when I heard him stick his plastic keys into the doorknob and try to open the door. Then I heard him say, "Oh, shit." My whole face widened, like the guy in Edvard Munch's Scream. After a moment I got up and opened the front door.
"Honey," I said, "what'd you just say?"
"I said, 'Oh, shit,'" he said.
"But, honey, that's a naughty word. Both of us have absolutely got to stop using it. Okay?"
He hung his head for a moment, nodded, and said, "Okay, Mom." Then he leaned forward and said confidentially, "But I'll tell you why I said 'shit.'" I said Okay, and he said, "Because of the fucking keys!”
I hope that makes someone go and get her book out of the library and read it. You might then be ready for an hour-long interview which is, by turns, confessional, insightful, laconic and funny. Her boy Sam became a father at a ridiculously young age [why a year younger than me] and Lamott wrote a book about the coming of the wunderkind called Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son's First son. Here Lamott reads sections with Sam to rein her in.

If you're not [yet] a fan, you might try 12 truths I learned from life and writing which is a) TED and b) only 16 minutes long . . . and nails world peace. Here's an even shorter piece [5 mins] anout how she got sober with the help of Jack "Why don't you come over and we'll talk" and God.

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