I struggled with how – or even whether – to review what I’ve read so far from my Annie Project.
The two Annies I’ve finished, Annie Dillard (The Writing Life) and Anne Lamott (Small Victories) left me lukewarm when I was expecting ‘red hot’; three stars when I was certain they would each merit five.
Annie Dillard isn’t the one causing my innards to churn. At worst, she didn’t hold my interest. Dillard is both deep and vast in her thoughts and writing technique.
Either she’s too deep or I’m too shallow.
In reality, she digressed, and I got lost.
So often that at the end of each chapter (all are untitled), I’d ask myself, “Now what was the point of that one?” The Writing Life is a slim book or I would have abandoned it.
Anne Lamott is an essayist skilled at her craft. She’s succinct and knows exactly how to color details; structure dialogue; set a mood; and bring the reader into her compositions. Lamott is a self-proclaimed left-wing, born-again Christian who says she is deeply religious, exalting both her community church and her like-minded church-going friends. Given that, and a title like “Small Victories”, I was expecting a book of uplifting messages.
Unfortunately I couldn’t relate to her often-angry, attacking, sometimes whiny tone. She gave me heartburn, and I felt as if she was trying to dump her moods on me.
When I finished I thought, “She lives in one of the most beautiful places on the planet (Muir Woods, CA); she hikes the most majestic redwood forests; she revels in her religion; she’s a well-regarded, national prize-winning author, and STILL she’s pissed at a world she can’t control and speaks of hating people who think differently from her.”
We’ve got a couple of rocky years ahead of us because politics and the bloviating choruses from the far left and far right will be slinging arrows that are tough to avoid.
I have very little desire to ‘get political’ on my blog. But I often feel – like I did while reading Lamott’s book – as if the arrows are coming at me.
When authors, columnists, and participants on social media talk about hating other people – actually name them by name as Lamott did – because of political views that differ (or even worse in Lamott’s case, deciding she didn’t like another school Mom because of the conservative way she dressed and decorated her house) …
Well, I duck for cover, lamenting that I cannot find my sense of place in our political chasm.
The left hates me because I think we need to revisit ‘SOME’ portions of our abortion laws to adjust for medical advances and cultural norms; because I think what’s occurring on college campuses with suppression of speech via ‘Trigger Warnings’ and the whole “Yes means Yes’ sex contracts are two of the most absurd, repressive, destructive movements to land on college campuses.
The right hates me because I think it IS time we allow same-sex marriages, irrespective of what religious tomes dictate, and because I want a reasonable, fair system for illegal immigrants – the 11+ million we can’t possibly send ‘home’ – whereby they become legal, productive residents of the United States.
I could go on about other social, economic and global issues.
What I think is not the point.
That I might not think exactly like YOU or Ann Coulter or Anne Lamott is.
If you only care about like-minded people (as LaMott says she does), and you profess hatred or dismissal of me – by name or assumed stereo-typical beliefs – just because I have an opinion that differs from yours, what chance do we have of ever resolving differences?
You cannot predict the probability that a blogger will launch a random post which hurtles through time and space to land smack-dab in the center of your orbit, ultimately affecting your course.
Within two days of finishing LaMott’s Small Victories, feeling blue about the disdain she directed towards individuals that she didn’t consider ‘like-minded’, I saw “Compassion and the Hope for Dialogue” written by blogger Faith Antion scroll through my Reader.
Please go read what Faith has to say.
After digesting Faith’s wise words and letting off some steam in her comment section, I thought I should give LaMott’s book a second read.
What if I’d overreacted to Lamott’s harshest words, perhaps missing snippets I could relate to?
What if I’d misinterpreted her tone in my haste to escape her gloomy outlook on our world today?
I reread portions, and I see now that a couple of her essays which I read as nasty attacks on neighbors were ultimately reflections on Lamott’s own shortcomings. I don’t like her tongue-in-cheek attacking technique, but I’ll give Lamott the benefit of the doubt that she meant to point the finger at herself.
I found one chapter – Forgiveness – that I interpreted more favorably upon a second reading, but it’s still a stretch for me to trust that Lamott’s practice of forgiveness is not conditional.
Her attacks hurt me, but I won’t speak ill of her as a person; I don’t think she should shut up; I don’t hate her, and I don’t expect you to hate her.
I think that’s the essence of Faith’s message – that we each try to find a little more elasticity in our judgment of others; a little more stretch to reach across divides; a little more agreement that intelligent, thoughtful, caring people can disagree without feeling hatred towards each other.
Nobody can do that if you, Faith, the Annies and I aren’t willing to take the first steps.
Comments on: "Faith, Hope and Compassion" (48)
I read and enjoyed Faith’s post a few days ago. I’ll have to revisit it to read your comments.
When a writer like Anne Lamott writes as she would speak to you in person, that can backfire if the reader is unfamiliar with her style and colloquialisms. That said, I wonder if you have discovered that the Empress has no clothes? Or, at the very least, her garments are somewhat tattered?
Good point, Maggie. I think she is a fine writer and I did not grasp her irreverent (as the book cover describes it) style. I am holding on to Small Victories and will try it again at a later date. But I do wish people, especially we who say we are working on forgiveness, would stop saying ‘I hate (name).’
I appreciate your observations.
I agree, Sammy. Whether she is being ironic or not, she is leading by example.
Me Too. That said, I DO have a list of people/groups I “hate” — but maybe upon reflection it is the isms they spout, as in racism, fanaticism, or fascism.
Thanks, Katie, for your thoughts.
What bothers me most about our age is the tribal chest thumping and cheer-leading that has become politics. It concerns me because our little corner of the world is rapidly becoming extraordinarily diverse.
In Minnesota, we have little towns of 5,000 and 10,000 people with large populations of immigrants from exotic places like Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Burma to name a few. If you walk the streets of Austin, Albert Lea, Faribault, Rochester and Owatonna, you will see far more diversity than you do in New York or L.A.
Of course there is much said about tolerance, which is wonderful, but if liberals and conservatives cannot get along, how in the name of hell are we supposed to get along with someone from Somalia?
That is so true, Greg. I think about the thousands of refugees from North Africa that are now being placed in villages in European countries where villagers have little experience with, or few resources to accomodate, these populations.
We all have an obligation to provide sanctuary, but the masses of population leaving areas of strife are huge with no end in sight.
What you give as examples are the same dilemma here in the States. We’ve watched the dire consequences in places like France and England where there is little encouragement for immigrants to integrate and adopt their new country’s ways. I sure hope we, as a country, can figure out a different path.
While I see more positives than negatives to welcoming immigrants into the States, It s a very difficult situation for everyone involved because it affects everything from economics and jobs to cultural norms.
Amen to what you said ⤴ .
Amen to what they ⤵ .
👏. Thank you, Raye. I hope you are doing well 💖
I did not like either “Annie”. I was also surprised, since they receive so many accolades. Dillard = too intense, Lamott–ho hum.
Thanks, Jane. I guess that’s why I tend not to read ‘prize winners”. Maybe my expectations are too high or too skewed.
I am enjoying Annie Proulx’s and Alice Munro’s short stories, so my Annie project hasn’t been a total bust!
Did you get my email? I can access your posts but something is preventing me from ‘liking’ or commenting. Just so you know, i am enjoying your camping, birding, fishing, new companion (besides Tango) … Well I’m enjoying them all😀. And I really enjoy seeing all your photos.
I’m sad that the Annies were not what you wanted, or maybe expected. I enjoyed Faith’s post as well.
I live in a strange state where a majority of the population doesn’t even understand political generalities, nor do they pursue knowledge on the subject, and the same people get elected over and over. Political band-wagoners, I’d say.
Our little neck of the city is progressive and still more working class than the areas around it. For this reason, I find The Mister and I are somewhat the minority when it comes to our social circle, but we are quite pleased to live here, regardless.
I find the inconsistencies in people around me highly entertaining. People who collect entitlements while complaining about others collecting entitlements. People who live “in sin” and yet will not pay for their college kid’s birth control, because she should wait to be married. People who think homosexuality is immoral, but love their gay hairstylist. People who despise illegal immigration but hire illegal immigrants. I mean, really, this is a great place to play I Spy Hypocrisy at every turn, lol!
I’ve got this strange idea that we all lead different lives, gaining exposure to different things and therefore have different values and make different choices. I value most people who live authentically, and that’s a small, small pond, whether it’s right or left.
Maybe those Annies should be commended for taking a stand and putting it all out there. I’ve no interest in reading more of either, but I love even the most potent of Annies in my life, because they provide a sounding board.
Thanks so much, Joey. These comments from all of you are as I hoped and expected – food for thought and opportunity to view things slightly differently.
Your examples of Hypocritical (magical?) Thinking are spot-on. I laugh when I read yours but gnash my teeth at the real life consequences of hypocritical behaviors. (of course, I have none!) I’m going to stretch my elastic to try to play I Spy once in awhile instead of my usual indignation 😊. This will help 🍷
Thanks again for your wisdom and observations.
Sammy I appreciated yoru honest reviews of the books and the authors. Perhaps in the hole post the line that will stick with me is this… ‘that we each try to find a little more elasticity in our judgment of others’. If we get to the point in our lives that we hate people because they think differently than us then the world really is in a terrible state. Also who wants to live with that kind of acidity in their soul. Call me naive but can’t we just agree to disagree and respect each other?
Excellent post. Truly. Very thought provoking.
That’s it exactly. Even if differing views bother us (and we shoukd celebrate them because they lead to better decisions),
Darn – why would we want that to eat away at us? It’s crazy!
Even school board meetings have de-volved into angry shouting matches! What happened to civil discourse and respect for others?
The part of Faith’s post that struck me was when she said some of her views have evolved as she matures and experiences different situations. I think she’s young enough to be my granddaughterI but she already understands that neither society nor its values are cast in permanent stone. i am quite amazed at people who lock in on an opinion and never waver or re-visit it in light of cultural or scientific advances.
The press gangs up on politiciams who change positions. Really? We want someone who never re-thinks a position? Call me crazy, but I think the voting public is smart enough to discern the difference between politicians who change positions with the wind and those who evolve in their thinking just like the rest of us (hopefully) do.
Thanks for reading and commenting, Sue. I appreciate your support.
Sue I so wish we could. The part of me that “hates” is hating the ones that want to take the freedoms away or punish those that are different or force their behaviors on me (and not for any good that I can see, like traffic laws!) Puts me in an existential conundrum for sure.
Sammy I agree, and wish a few politicians in office right now would revisit their opinions on a few matters.
I am not fond of either Annies; wanted to like them but could not, and both bored the hell out of me. My favorite Annie is Anne (with an e) of Green Gables. Or Anne Morrow Lindbergh.
I’m a left-wing liberal and have friends who are republicans. I can think of a handful right off the top of my head. What we have in common is a love of the freedoms in this country, our constitution, and some compassion for humanity and other living beings. I may not like Rush Limbo, but i want him to be able to say whatever he wants on the air. I cringe when I think of what that might be, but his freedom ensures my freedom. My family was split down the middle and as long as there was not too much drinking at Christmas gatherings, the arguments were civil. Mostly they argued about HOW a thing should be done, not that the thing itself was evil. My conservative family members would not have been thrilled with abortion, but they also would have wanted to find a way to take care of the children who had no money. I could hear their FEELINGS about the subject even though I disagreed with their politics. We were civil. We shook hands in the middle somewhere. I believe that the country is divided because there are factions who wish to keep us divided. That this is true is a bit frightening; think Hitler. Controlling through fear of the other.
I wrote a long response to Faith. Thoughtful post, and I am following her to see what she writes about in future.
You know I love Stegner. One of my all-time favorite writers; I wept when he died. I will tell you a few others, women:
Terry Tempest Williams (especially her book about the clan of the one-breasted women);
Nancy Mairs, who brings you to her uplifting world (mostly) while writing from a wheel chair;
May Sarton, especially Journal of a Solitude;
Pema Chodron, because she writes about compassion as a Buddhist who doesn’t care if you are — think Star-bellied Sneeches. My Catholic and atheist friends all adore her writing and wisdom.
Huggs to you.
Thanks, Katie for adding all this good ‘meat’! I’m glad I’m not the only lukewarm Annie reader!!
May Sarton’s Journal of Solitude is one I’ve intended to re-read and write about. I think of many of her reflections so often. Thanks for many other good recommendations (being duly noted!)
As a former member of the media, I feel much of the blame lies there. “Good TV” requires fireworks, not civil discourse, so Fox News and MSNBC endlessly stir the pot in the name of a few more ratings points. It’s counterproductive and, at times, dangerous. And politics has become an “all or nothing” proposition…no one seems willing to compromise any more, which (like it or not) is the only way things truly get done. I can only hope the pendulum swings back to moderation before long.
Thanks, Curt. Lord knows we could do with less pot-stirring!! I’m almost more alarmed at how uncivil some of the local issues have become. It seems nothing is resolved without there being a “let’s get organized; who can shout the loudest” protest or meeting. Anger and pressure rather than effective discussion doesn’t make for the best decisions.
Absolutely. No compromise, no “elasticity”…everyone just seems to dig in and point fingers. Frustrating…
Learned Behavior !
Lamott’s Bird by Bird was a great inspirational writing book but I’m not interested in reading about her hate issues. I’ll check out Faith’s blog instead. Thank you for that!
Thanks, Carol. Maybe I chose the wrong book 😁. I will remember Faith’s suggestions for neutral ways to respond to strong opinions!
After reading all of the comments, I don’t think I have much to add. I haven’t read either Annies and, now, I doubt that I will. I’m more in the liberal camp (not so much the religious one), but, like you, I find myself agreeing with some conservative positions now and then. Because it is so easy to self-select the input we receive (from friends, electronic media, social media, books, etc.), the “other side” can appear downright crazy for having the opinions they have. Granted, some actually are crazy, but most have at least a little merit. All we need to do is open up our ears a bit and listen. Nice post.
Thanks, Janis. You are right – we can tune out ‘the others’ and that makes them shout louder (the others being anyone who doesn’t agree with me Ha! 😊). Even with the fringe on each wing and lots of clamor, I’ll still take ‘us’ over any other country. That says a lot.
I often describe myself as someone who was conservative but then they moved the dial and I no longer find myself under that title. I honestly don’t think I’ve changed. I think I was close to the middle but that the middle has retreated to the opposite extremes. I get funny remarks from people when I say things like “I need to read more about that” as if I should just accept some statement in the paper or blathered by some talking head. I dread the political season (that has already begun) because there won’t be any discussion. Discussion is harmless. There’s no danger of ending up being hated during a discussion. I pretty quickly stop reading people who spew hate or who align so tightly to one perspective that they can’t accept any others. I don’t need that in my life. I try to read open-minded people. I’m not sure I’ve said anything here, but I’m going to stop. If you figure out a way to explore controversial topics Sammy, I’ll be happy to read and discuss.
I was positive this post would be your ‘sorry I’m off the grid’
Haha, no. I was off the grid a bit yesterday doing some work. This is tough though. So many people I could offend, so easily and without saying anything offensive…
You read about bras and ear lifts and Joey having sex but I thought surely you’d duck the politics.
I haven’t a clue how to move the discourse to civility. So far, we keep it civil in our HOA, but a few meetings have been touch and go 😊
I’m typically in the middle third of the issues spectrum, but I move left or right in direct contradiction to whichever wing is shouting the most ridiculous propaganda and slinging the crookedest arrows. Sometimes that’s a toss-up.
I tend to move to oppose the loudest, least logical voice too. I try to ask provocative questions hoping to start a discussion. The favorite response is “now you sound like…” (Easily ID’d left or right leaner) offered as an insult.
A great post that has generated a lot of lively and thought-provoking comment. I think Joey nailed it with her comments about the hypocrisy that accompanies that accompanies the intolerance.
For me, I confess I stick my head in the sand and try ignore all the negative, angry, racist, homophobic, isolationist, religious dogmatic thinking.
Hypocrisy is the root of much of my frustration. I win’t start listing examples 😀
Yes the Ostrich approach works until i start choking on the sand!!
We live in a time where so many people seem to be so polarized, and often judge each other just because of labels – left, right, liberal, conservative – instead of really talking and listening and trying to understand others’ viewpoints. Thank you so much for this thoughtful post. I’m sorry you were hurt by the attacks in the book.
Thank you, Laurel. The impatience, intolerance and verbal aggressions seem to know no bounds. What happened to treating individuals with respect! I have wondered about Canada. The European countries seem pretty polarized but iddly we don’t hear much about Canada.
I read lots of issues-related onfo because I want to be infirmed. But I always check the facts and I never read the comments.
Very, very infrequent visits to Facebook and no twitter.
You are special 💞
Never reading the comments on articles is a VERY wise idea – I need to listen to that advice myself more often!
I don’t know – in some ways I’d say we’re a little (only a little!) less polarized in Canada, but I’m not sure what I’m basing that on. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that politically we’re not a two-party system, which (IMO) makes it a little easier not to draw such strong party lines? That might be oversimplifying things, though. I’ll have to give this some more thought.
That makes sense, Laurel. It’s impossible to get a middle-of-the-road third party started here. We just swing our votes to the least stinkiest propositions and candidates 😀
I prefer yakking with my blog buddies!!
Me too! 🙂
Oh wow, I ‘m really surprised to hear about Lamott’s book! I’ve only read her Bird by Bird book which I thought was excellent, but I’m surprised she’d actually attack people for thinking differently to her.
It can be hard to accept people with different opinions, especially on sensitive topics, but at the end of the day hating someone for their opinion brings her far lower than the people she despises. I’m so sorry you felt targeted by her book, that’s terrible.
The reality is that it’s so hard to get things right these days, and so hard to work out what’s the right thing to do, that all we have are our opinions, and our attempts at being good people. Banging on other people for going about this in a different way to our own is counter productive. Sometimes I think the world is so focused on the labels of politics (left or right, liberal or conservative), that we’re losing track of the reason we have politics and politicians in the first place: which is to run countries and make them better, and make the lives of the people who inhabit those countries better, and to allow debate and discussions with the aim to learn and grow as a nation. And shooting people down for holding different opinions achieves the exact opposite of that. There needs to be different opinions for there to be growth. And there needs to be debates, and arguments for both sides of an issue if a well rounded decision is to be reached — whatever the issue.
By the way I saw your other post Sammy. Have a lovely time off line and enjoy the call of Nature and summer! 🙂
Thank you, dear Celine💞. You stated this so well. It’s especially hard to hold some liberal and some conservative views, not fitting anywhere because we don’t tend to speak – fearing wrath or fearing being sterotyped by stating a view on a single issue.
On to more pleasant things like bring in Nature 😀 i snuck a peek at comments while drinking my coffee.
I despise the word Hate. There is such finality to it.
“…that we each try to find a little more elasticity in our judgment of others; a little more stretch to reach across divides; a little more agreement that intelligent, thoughtful, caring people can disagree without feeling hatred towards each other.”
P.S. On a FB sabbatical (for many of the reasons Faith highlighted). Have been for some time.
Thank you, Dani. Your support means a lot. XXOO
Oh, i feel terrible because I recommended this book in one of my posts (not that that’s why you read it, but…) Did she rant a lot about Bush in that one? I think this is an example of a publisher getting greedy by republishing successful stuff and not being mindful of timeliness/dated references. At least, that’s what i recall, but I read a bunch of LaMott stuff in a row so it all bleeds together. New word of the day: “bloviating.”
Well I feel terrible for writing I didn’t like a book you loved! 😀. It wasn’t her rants about Bush as much as it was her hypocrisy about how diligently she was working to become more forgiving but making it VERY clear that she tolerates only folks who share her beliefs. Like you pointed out, I kept wondering why she’d choose Bush rants ( including Laura Bush) years after they’ve left public positions.
No worries. I’ll still read what you write and authors you recommend 😀
I try as much as possible never to judge. Being judgmental based on any sort of world view at all is impossible if I’m to have compassion and empathy– two qualities without which I can’t write my fiction.
I’m shocked that someone who wrote Bird by Bird can be so rigid and unforgiving.
Enjoy your break, Sammy, and hope to see you back soon. Thanks for your shoutout to the Cherished Blogfest– we’re more than 100 strong now, and should have some good fun next weekend!
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