Bird By Bird

by Sandra

I went to a reading by Anne Lamott tonight. I don’t usually go to readings very often, ’cause there aren’t too many things I read, and the things I do read aren’t usually by authors who give readings to large groups of people. And honestly, I’ve never even read a book of Lamott’s cover to cover, just snippets during trips to Powells, standing amidst the smell of books and dust and glue, rocking back and forth so my feet would not hurt too much and stiffling a chuckle here and there.

However, from what I’ve read from her, she is funny and extremely, near-painfully honest about her life and faith and lack thereof (of both). She’s a woman who has clearly learned about life the hard way, forgoing the advice that wisdom comes from abstaining, but rather by jumping into life with both feet, despite the pool only being half-an-inch deep.

Her reading was in Pasadena, and as I walked home from work and took a shower and got caught up in email, I didn’t remember that the event started at seven, and not seven-thirty, and when I realized that I had only given myself half-an-hour to slog through the tight knot of Los Angeles rush hour traffic, I almost didn’t go but reminded myself that I’d rather finish something I said I’d do rather than recant at the last moment.

And not a moment too soon, as I found the last parking spot in the lot and slipped into the overflow room right before they closed the door at 7:25. Anne’s image was there, projected larger than life, coming from a camera placed in the downstairs room. I sat, craning my neck to see her full face, her glasses and dreadlocked hair belieing her middle-age. She read from her new book and then rambled a bit about Duane Allman’s guitar solo in Layla as she answered audience questions, eventually reading from Traveling Mercies the story of the time leading up to her being “born again,” and the alcohol and cocaine and rock and roll all involved.

As she read about her life, her seeming missteps and her frailties, she read without a hint of shame in her voice, and at one point she talked about how being human was extremely difficult for her (to which I could relate). Yet she did it all with such grace and humor and I was truly inspired because she’s managed to navigate the highs and low-low-lows with humor and what seemed to be an understanding that she is truly covered by grace. As in “hello, you can make a mistake, it’s okay!”

Anyway. It was a good evening. It was a little letting off of steam from the build-up of the past few weeks. If you’re of the mind — pick her stuff up. Traveling Mercies and Plan B are her best known, as well as Bird By Bird, her book about writing.