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.