Where I got the book: purchased on Amazon. A Sunday in the Park book club read.
The plot: Harvard grad student Connie is assigned by her mother to clea...moreWhere I got the book: purchased on Amazon. A Sunday in the Park book club read.
The plot: Harvard grad student Connie is assigned by her mother to clear out her grandmother's house, and discovers her connection to the Salem Witches.
I was, on the whole, underwhelmed, which is what happens when you pick up a book that's touted as a Brilliant Bestseller! Spooky! Bedeviling! and find that the writing's that of a newbie writer, good on the important points of grammar and generally stringing words together but rather inconsistent in terms of hanging a plot together believably and generally not annoying the reader. THIS reader was thoroughly annoyed in quite a few places: the old, abandoned house that mysteriously had not had its mains water cut off and was well supplied with oil lamps whose oil had mysteriously not dried up over the last, what, thirty or forty years; the entire function of Sam-the-love-interest who, I swear, was just stuck in the book so he could be In Grave Danger; the slipping into the POV of the dog or even, at one point, a rat; and the absolute worst, the relentless use of New England dialect. Yes, I know that people out there talk funny. I don't need to be reminded of it ALL THE TIME, especially when it's mixed with Ye Olde English to give us the following:
"Anothah time," she began again, "I ha' sought physick from heh for a pained foot. She bade me entah heh house and did apply some liniment to my foot which she made by mashing hairbs and readin' in some book. I asked her what book war this and she said nowt but placed the book on a high shelf and asked me if my foot weh feeling bettah, which it was."
And it really wasn't all that spooky. Or bedeviling. But the stepback cover on this edition was COOL and almost made up for Connie's stupidity. For a Harvard doctoral student she was pretty darn slow on the uptake, missing all the totally obvious clues strewn in her path.
Perhaps I'm reading this, one of the writing community's most referred-to books, too late in life. Perhaps...moreWhere I got the book: purchased from Amazon.
Perhaps I'm reading this, one of the writing community's most referred-to books, too late in life. Perhaps as a 20-year-old English major (which I never was) I would have loved this book. That could explain its popularity; it seems like the kind of writing-advice book that will be invariably set as a mandatory read in an MFA program. And that, in turn, could explain why a certain type of writer will, if asked to give writing advice, sound exactly like Anne Lamott.
Maybe that's the problem: familiarity. I've heard so much of this before that it felt, well, stale. Write every day. Write from the heart. Find your own voice. Or maybe it's because I'm a 52-year-old recovering cynic and I'm a little less EMOTIONAL about the whole writing process. The notion of going on a 3-day alcohol (or later, eating) binge because your editor didn't like your book seems a bit excessive. Paying a therapist to help you get through your jealousy of your successful writer friends? Mmmmmkay.
And Lamott's overwrought prose style made me think of Anne Rice, for some reason. Perhaps it's just because they're both called Anne.
There were moments when I was moved and made to think about writing, so maybe one day I'll read Bird by Bird again and see if I can revise this first impression. It could be that the gems contained within the neurotic twaddle are what make the book shine in the memories of so many writers. But I ended up feeling that I'd learned a lot more about Anne Lamott than I'd learned about writing. (less)
To be honest I couldn't finish this. I'll try again another time. For a book on simple and direct writing it struck me as remarkably convoluted and fl...moreTo be honest I couldn't finish this. I'll try again another time. For a book on simple and direct writing it struck me as remarkably convoluted and flowery, not to mention snobbish. There are better style books out there.(less)