Do pardon while I take a break from kid lit today.
Earlier this week some friends and I went to hear Anne Lamott read from her latest book of essays, Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith. Prior to the author's taking the podium, a Super Store representative must have announced 53 times that Ms. Lamott would be signing books afterward but not personalizing any messages. Armed with book bags and late-winter pallors, we evidently looked like a rowdy crowd who would any minute begin to chant, "Write my name! Write my name!"
As my friends and I expected, Anne Lamott is dry and funny in person. She read two essays from Grace (Eventually), "The Ski Patrol" and "At Death's Window." She got a lot of laughs from the first, but the second essay, which is about assisted suicide, did not connect with me. That one starts, "The man I killed did not want to die, but he no longer felt he had much of a choice." Given the seriousness of her topic, I found that beginning glib. Lamott said that she expected criticism for the piece, and several friends had urged her not to publish it. As much of a fan as I am, I agree. The 8-page essay with a self-referential opening falls short of conveying the subject's complexities and lacks emotional resonance.
I did buy the book a couple of days later, and am slowly perusing and enjoying the other pieces, which cover some familiar Lamott territory (her church, her writing life, her son). The author ended her appearance at the Super Store by reading Galway Kinnell's "Saint Francis and the Sow" (which can be found online at the Poetry Foundation's archive). When Lamott finished that poem, you could feel the audience's inaudible sigh, a recognition of Kinnell's art. Instead of inscribing our names in her books that evening, Anne Lamott gave us that, and it was a lovely gift.