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02 May, 2008
No Cosmic BellhopAuthor Anne Lamott was on Stephen Colbert promoting her latest book, and reminded me how much I enjoyed her Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith a few years back.
When I got the book as a present, the title was a bit of a turn off. I wasn't exactly religious and didn't know her work at the time. But then, if I gave a book on Intelligent Design a try -- which annoyed me after a couple of chapters, but that's not the point -- surely her book can't be that bad?
Well, it actually turned out to be very good. Her unpretentious style reminded me of my favorite food writer, the late Laurie Colwin, whose books made me feel like I was reading the letters or journals of a dear old friend.
However, the conversational prose was where the similarity ended. In spite of her self-deprecating humor, I sometimes found the book -- a collection of 24 essays originally published in Salon --difficult to read, even painful.
For one thing, Lamott isn't your typical believer, or at least not what you'd imagine a Christian author to be. She's a Presbyterian who's just as into New Age and karma as she is into Jesus, a liberal, dreadlocks-wearing flower child from San Francisco who's also a single mother and recovering alcoholic. Her attempts to reconcile her faith with her heartbreak over the war in Iraq, her lingering resentment of her dead mother and the inevitable friction with her teenage son made for some uncomfortable reading.
Yet I found her brutal honesty, dry wit and strong faith oddly comforting. That I ached, laughed and got hopeful with her in spite of myself speaks to Lamott's generosity as a writer. She's the kind who opens the doors to her life wide open when she writes, and if her previous work is any indication, her new book would be no different.
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