It’s an autobiography about a stringy-haired, former bulimic, funny, gentle, honest and awkward writer from California.
I love the writing and the honeIt’s an autobiography about a stringy-haired, former bulimic, funny, gentle, honest and awkward writer from California.
I love the writing and the honesty and how it makes me laugh in the metro.
Anne Lamott is one of my favorite writers. It’s interesting to hear her thoughts on faith, and it makes me think about what it means to be a Christian.
Like how I’ve been one of those Christians who “seemed almost hostile in their belief that they were saved and you weren’t.”* Which is sad, but very, very true, because I remember being uptight like that in college for example. Like when I would argue with this computer science major at my bus stop who said he was an atheist. I felt it was my duty, literally, to argue him into becoming a believer. Like that was what it meant for me to be a Christian – to fight with people until they gave in and saw the error of their ways.
Now sometimes I lean too much the other way, and try not to talk about, you know, Jesus. I tell myself it’s because I’m avoiding being obnoxious, but really it’s mostly because I’m afraid they’ll judge me and also because I forget what it really means to be a Christian, and I lose sight of how first-light-of-dawn amazing God really is.
So my favorite chapters in this book were the ones in the middle that she wrote on grace. Because that’s what being a Christian is all about at it’s core, I think. Grace – “the electricity or breeze that takes you from that isolated place and puts you with others who are as startled and embarrassed and eventually grateful as you are to be there.”
Here’s another of her quotes on grace, because those really were some of the best parts of the book:
“…I knew it hadn’t gone well…And my fear of failure has been lifelong and deep. If you are what you do – and I think my parents may have accidentally given me this idea – and you do poorly, what then? It’s over; you’re wiped out. All those prophecies you heard in the dark have come true, and people can see the real you, see what a schmendrick you are, what a fraud…….Out of nowhere I remembered something one of my priest friends had said once, that grace is having a commitment to – or at least acceptance of – being ineffective and foolish. That our bottled charm is the main roadblock to drinking that clear cool glass of love.” -Anne Lamott
See? Isn’t that lovely? THIS is faith! THIS is a bit of what being a Christian is all about. Somehow I manage to forget this on an almost daily basis. That being a Christian is about realizing what a schmendrick you are, and then having grace quietly, all-acceptingly poured over you because God is just amazing like that.
But it’s two parts – you can’t have one without the other. Grace is meaningless if you think you have it all together. Which is interesting, how Christianity works best when you’re at your weakest, your lowest. Failure turns out to be a gift because it makes room for God in all your stuffy, choking, self-centeredness and pride.
The books’s enough to lift you right out of the yellow-light rackety metro car, and send your thoughts soaring up to where it’s bright and clean with lots of room and patience – where you can spread your shoulders and breathe deeply and smile at people.
Those are my favorite kinds of books – the ones that are true and make you look around with wonder again, the ones that give you patience when you read them. ”Patience,” as Anne says, “is when God – or something – makes the now a little roomier.”
I quite often feel that reading the Bible gives me this feeling – the feeling that the now is a little roomier. Which is why, among other reasons, that I still like reading it. Meeting with friends or going for a walk, or visiting an art gallery sometimes also works. Yesterday economist husband and I watched the movie Up, and it made the world seem kinder and sweeter. Interestingly enough, failure (when I really, really mess it up), followed by grace, also brings me up to that big, light, roomy plain. Freedom, I guess, is the word. And this book, in addition to the other things I’ve read by Anne Lamott also helps me to wake up and stretch and feel generous somehow. http://breakfastinmoscow.wordpress.co......more
Maybe it’s just the timing, but I really, really liked this book. Brenda Ueland’s advice on work, art, independence, talent, inspiration, confidence aMaybe it’s just the timing, but I really, really liked this book. Brenda Ueland’s advice on work, art, independence, talent, inspiration, confidence and the creative process is so practical for me as I try to figure out what it means to be a journalist and a writer, and how to just sit down at the desk do it all. But I think that no matter what your line of work is (even if you don’t, as the title suggests, want to write) you’d probably like this book. There’s good, friendly encouragement and insight into how to calm down, live in the present, don’t avoid the work, and just enjoy it all because it’s what you were made to do.
She lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota (which, if you didn’t know it is pretty much the best city in the whole world), so I can imagine her entertaining at a house with stone steps on Grand, and talking with art friends in a smoky uptown cafe. I can tell from the book that she admired William Blake and Vincent Van Gogh and reading her writing – rambling, frank, dotted with footnotes and full of lots of old syntax and words like “splendid” (because it was the 1930s, after all) – is like having a conversation over afternoon tea in black and white with someone from “It’s a Wonderful Life”.
She paints pictures of things that I struggle with, like work and what to do when you actually carve the time out and sit down at your desk, and hope the words will come. And she explains it all so patiently and clearly that it’s not intimidating anymore, gently reminding us that, ”[This] is the way you are to feel when you are writing – happy, truthful and free, with that wonderful contented absorption of a child stringing beads in kindergarten. With complete self-trust…I tell you this because I want to show you that the creative impulse is quiet, quiet. It sees, it feels, it quietly hears; and now, in the present.”*
And when I think about work like that, it’s not so scary anymore. It helps me remember that I really do have the capability to contribute and do something valuable and unique if I’ll just settle down and focus for a minute.
Focus and presence without any fear is really the key, I think, to any kind of real communication or creative work – whether its making dinner, preparing a lesson plan, writing an article or just having a sincere/enjoyable conversation (as illustrated in the following story):
“Once driving around the lake by our house we stopped and looked at the sunset, a December sky. He spoke of ‘the gunmetal sky’ and looked for a long time. I felt some awe: ‘This is really the way a poet feels when he is moved.’ For I could feel what was going on in him while he looked at the sky, – some kind of an experience, incandescent and in motion. But I was living ten minutes hence in the future, feeling a little self-conscious and anxious to please and full of small compunctions, though I exclaimed: ‘Isn’t it perfectly wonderful!’ Well, Carl Sandburg was living in the present and having a poetic experience. But I was too full of other celebrations, concern about being a polite hostess and getting home on time to dinner…Incidentally, when you say perfunctorily about the sky just to talk: ‘What a beautiful evening!’ that is not poetry. But if you say it and mean it very much, it is.”
She had a few other very practical words of advice, like:
-Keep a diary -Take walks -Don’t hurry, because “...the imagination needs moodling, – long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering. These people who are always briskly doing something and as busy as waltzing mice, they have little, sharp, staccato ideas, such as: ‘I see where I can make an annual cut of $3.47 in my meat budget.“ -In writing, “...do not try to think of better words, more gripping words. Try to see the people better…the characters must come fully to life in your imagination” (which, if you think about it, is good advice for any sort of creative work – fiction writing, journalism, giving a speech/presentation, or just having a conversation) -and finally, ”…the only way to write well, so that people believe what we say and are interested or touched by it, is to slough off all pretentiousness and attitudinizing.” (so true! and not just for writers!)
But I think my favorite part, and the most helpful bit, were the words on having confidence. Because I waste a lot of time worrying if my ideas are good, and second-guessing myself, and making apologies to my boss or coworkers before they even have a chance to check my work -
“We are too ready (women especially) not to stand by what we have said or done. Often it is a way of forestalling criticism, saying hurriedly: ‘I know it is awful!’ before anyone else does. Very bad and cowardly. It is so conceited and timid to be ashamed of one’s mistakes. Of course they are mistakes. Go on to the next.“
True, no? Like I said, good words no matter what your line of work may be. From journalism to laundry to writing, film editing, making soup or vacuuming – it helps to be present with quiet and confidence (which really comes with humility and faith, if you think about it). http://breakfastinmoscow.wordpress.co......more
Somehow, France, February, and food all seem to go well together, so I thought I’d start February off with a little ode to a book I just finished readSomehow, France, February, and food all seem to go well together, so I thought I’d start February off with a little ode to a book I just finished reading – Julia Child’s “My Life in France.”
I wasn’t sure how it would go – I’d just finished a slew of fast-paced novels, so I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get into a non-fiction food memoir, but I really liked liked it.
The book starts out with a ride in Paul and Julia’s “Blue Flash” Buick from Le Havre, France to Paris with a stop on the way for a four-course meal including oysters, sole meuniere, salade verte, fromage and a crisp white wine – a “life-altering lunch”, as it’s been called (isn’t THAT an interesting idea? A meal so sublime that it changes the direction of your life…have you ever had one of those?)
Subsequent chapters follow them on their adventures in Parisian markets, cluttered rental apartments, expat friendships, and Cordon Bleu classes.
It took me about 70 pages before I broke down and made Coq au Vin!
Really though, the best part of the book wasn’t the food. Mostly I enjoyed seeing France through Julia’s (as she puts it) “six-foot-two-inch, thirty-six-year-old, rather loud and unserious Californian” eyes. Her eternal optimism and laid-back joie de vivre are contagious.
It’s fascinating to read about her and Paul’s relationship – their teamwork and sense of humor. I also loved getting a glimpse into their life as expats, always moving around and frustrated with not being able to have their own place and their friends always being far away.
I felt I could really relate to this quote:
“Oh, how I yearned for a passel of blood-brother friends to celebrate with. We had plenty of acquaintances in Oslo, but, as in Plittersdorf, we suffered months and month of nobody to really hug but ourselves. This was the thing I hated most about the itinerant diplomatic life.” -Julia Child (My Life in France)
She had lots of good advice on culture shock and transition, and enjoying life just where you find yourself.
Also fascinating were the chapters on her career. She was completely mesmerized with the “rich and layered and endlessly fascinating subject” of French cooking. Did you know that Julia was 37 when she began her first cooking class? It’s never too late to build a career doing something you love!
“‘No one’s more important than people!’ In other words, friendship is the most important thing – not career or housework or one’s fatigue – and it needs to be tended and nurtured. So we packed up our bags and off we went. And thank heaven we did!” -Julia Child (My Life in France)
What about you? Have you read any good books lately? Were you able to read ‘My Life in France’ without picturing Meryl Streep as Julia Child?? (I wasn’t!)