An SGA friend sent me copies of Anne Lamott's "Traveling Mercies: Some thoughts on faith" and "Plan B: Further thoughts on faith" to read while I'm laying around the house for the next six weeks.
LaMott books are collections of narrative essays, one of my favorite literary forms, as the action does not drag on and on or go off onto tangents that tax my ability to concentrate for long periods of time. Like many narrative essayists, LaMott writes about every day--stories about her son, her family of origin, childhood friends, her church family. She tells stories about recovering from alcoholism & bulemia, experiencing the deaths of her father, mother, and closest friend, raising a child as a single, unwed mother, her conversion to left-wing, social gospel Christianity, her struggles as a writer and artist, and simple, sweet stories about children who overcome their terror of dogs and lessons learned while celebrating birthday parties.
She writes wonderful, funny prose and witty one-liners like: "Some people think God is in the details, but I have come to think that God is in the bathroom." She writes that the two best prayers she knows are "Help me, help me, help me" and "thank you, thank you, thank you." This may not the most profound stuff in the world, but I like it because it expresses the ordinary, everyday human faith I value most, which is irreverent and quirky.
LaMott is one of the San Francisco Bay area "literary" writers, and her politics are pretty much what you'd expect from that cultural milieu, except that she is a professing Christian, or as LaMott would say, "I'm just a bad Christian. A bad born-again Christian. And certainly, like the apostle Peter, I am capable of denying it, of presenting myself as a sort of leftist liberation-theology enthusiast and maybe sort of vaguely Jesusy bon vivant. But it's not true...I am a believer, a convert." (Knocking on Heaven's Door, p. 61)
LaMott is one among few (if any) left-wing Christian writers who publish critical commentary on their right-wing evangelical bretheren with good-natured humor and insight. She tells of an encounter with such an evangelical on an airplane in the narrative essay "Knocking on Heaven's Door," where she relates that the man sitting next to her, who is reading a book about the Apocalypse,
"...began telling me how he and his wife were homeschooling their children, and he described with enormous acrimony how the radical, free-for-all, feminist, touchy-feely philosophy of his country's school system, and I knew instanting that this description was an act of aggression against me--that he was telepathically on to me, could see that I was the enemy, that I will be on the same curling team in heaven as Tom Hayden and Vanessa Redgrave." (p. 62)
I'm almost finished with Traveling Mercies and will be diving into "Plan B", where LaMott talks about politics and her view of the Bushites.