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Grace (eventually): Thoughts On Faith

by Anne Lamott
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Riverhead Trade
  • Publishing date: 26/02/2008
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9781594482878
  • ISBN: 159448287X

Synopsis

Through Anne Lamott's many books (including six novels, her bestselling parenting memoir, Operating Instructions, and her popular guide to writing, Bird by Bird) the subject she keeps returning to is her faith, her deeply personal--"erratic," she says--journey in Christianity. Her latest book, Grace (Eventually), is her third collection of her "thoughts on faith," and she took the time to answer a few of our questions.

Questions for Anne Lamott

Amazon.com: This is your third book on faith. How has your perspective changed since you wrote your first one?

Lamott: I wrote my first book on faith when Bill Clinton was president, and I was in a much better mood. I wrote Plan B during the run-up to war in Iraq, and the ensuing catastrophe, so I was very angry, but trying to reconcile that pain and hostility to Jesus's insistence that we are made of love, to love, and be loved, to forgive and be forgiven. Some days went better than others. Also, my son Sam was in his early teens, and that was a LOT easier than when he turned 16 and 17, his ages when I was writing the pieces in Grace (Eventually).

In general, I think Grace (Eventually) is a less angry book. I like how I'm aging, except that my back hurts more often, my knees crack like twigs when I squat, and my memory fails more frequently, in more public and therefore humiliating ways. But I think I complain less. As my best friend said when she was dying, and I was obsessing about my butt, "You just don't have that kind of time."

Amazon.com: What does grace mean for you? How can we better communicate it to each other?

Lamott: Grace is that extra bit of help when you think you are really doomed; also, not coincidentally, when you have finally run out of good ideas on how to proceed, and on how better to control the people or circumstances that are frustrating or defeating you. I experience Grace as a cool ribbon of fresh air when I feel spiritually claustrophobic. Sometimes I experience it as water-wings, something holding me up when I am afraid that I'm going down, or the tide is carrying me away. I know that Grace meets us whereever we are, but does not leave us where it found us. Sometimes it is so small--a couple of seconds relief here, several extra inches there. I wish it were big and obvious, like sky-writing. Oh, well. Grace is not something I DO, or can chase down; but it is something I can receive, when I stop trying to be in charge.

We communicate grace to one another by holding space for people when they are hurt or terrified, instead of trying to fix them, or manage their emotions for them. We offer ourselves as silent companionship, or gentle listening when someone feels very alone. We get people glasses of water when they are thirsty.

Amazon.com: Many of the essays in Grace (Eventually) first appeared in Salon, the online magazine, and that's the way that many readers first found you. How do you see the Internet changing the way people read and write?

Lamott: The Internet makes everything so immediate and spontaneous, which I totally love--UNLESS it has to do with the immediacy of people's negative response to me. Several of the Salon pieces in Grace--for instance, the story about the horrible fight with my son, and the piece about turning the other cheek while being ripped off by The Carpet Guy--generated a couple hundred letters, many of them extremely hostile. Perhaps "spewy" would be a better description. I also sometimes get knee-jerk responses to my mentions of Jesus in my Salon pieces that seem to lump me in the same tradition as Jerry Falwell. But for the most part, I love the populism and egalitarian nature of the Internet: everyone counts the same.

Amazon.com: What stories do people tell you, when they've read your books or know you are a writer?

Lamott: People tell me how relieved they are that I try to tell the truth about how hard it can be to be a mother, or a daughter, or an American in these times. They tell me stories about how awful their own teenagers can be, or how awful they themselves behaved towards their kids or parents; how hard it was to finally be able to adore their mothers, or to forgive their fathers. They tell me their sobriety dates. They whisper to me that they are Christians, too.

Also, they ask if I am able to read their manuscripts, and the name of my agent, and my e-mail address. They ask if we are going to survive the current political difficulties--and I promise them we are. They ask how old my son is now--17 and a half--and how he is doing, which is fantastically, after some of the hard months I wrote about in Grace.

Amazon.com:What lessons do you think you can pass on to others: to your readers, to your son? What lessons does it seem like people have to learn for themselves?

Lamott: All I have to offer is my own truth, my own experience, strength and hope. I can pass on the tool of a God Box, and how for 20 years I have been putting tiny notes in mine and promising God I will keep my sticky fingers off the controls until I hear God's wisdom: sometimes I get an answer because the phone rings, or the mail comes, but at any rate, during every single terrible problem and tragedy, I have been given enough guidance and stamina and even humor to bear up, and be transformed, for the good. I always tell Sam that if you want to make God laugh, tell Her your plans. I tell Sam that if he listens to his best thinking, he will suffer: and to listen to his heart instead, to listen in the silence, and to seek wise counsel.

Amazon.com: You've written nearly a dozen books (including an incredibly popular guide to writing): does writing get any easier? Does it get harder?

Lamott: In a very important way, writing gets easier, because I've been doing it full time now for thirty-plus years, and just as you would get better and better if you practiced your scales on a piano, I've gotten better, and can try harder and harder pieces. But writing is always hard. It does not come naturally to me at all. I sit down at the same time every day, which lets my subconscious realize it's time to get to work. I give myself very short assignments, and let myself write really terrible first drafts. But I grapple with the exact same problems every writer does, which is having equal proportions of self-loathing and grandiosity. I sort of live by the Nike ads: Just Do It. So I sit down. I show up. I do it by pre-arrangement with myself, because I know I'll feel sad and terrible if I shirk on that days writing. I do it as a debt of honor, to myself, and to whatever it is that has given me this gift of being able to tell stories, and to make people laugh. Laughter is carbonated holiness. Other people's good writing is medicine for me, and I hope mine is too, for my readers.


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  • Ann Lamott (Continuously): Thoughts on Myself
    From Amazon

    Thank you, Lord, I am finally finished with this piece of drivel. This book should have been named Ann Lamott (Continuously): Thoughts on Myself, as that is ALL she talks about. If she wanted to write yet another memoir (of sorts), then entitle it & market it as such. To suggest that this book is about grace (as in the grace of God) is erroneous in the extreme. Lamott simply DOES NOT GET the concept of grace...at all. I actually expected this to be a book of at least a modicum of substance, so I was thoroughly disappointed at the end. It was shallow, doctrinally flawed, morally relative, and all in all, a very laissez faire approach to Christianity. If Lamott was looking to burn off readers - specifically readers whose points of view differ from hers - she has successful written a book that will accomplish that. This is truly a shame, because she has a talent for writing and spins an interesting tale. Unfortunately she seems unable to discuss issues that are dear to her heart without presenting them in a way that will appeal only to like-minded readers. The rest of us will want to (and may indeed) hurl the book against the wall. The most glaring problem with this book is her irrational anger toward and hatred for George W. Bush. Certainly she disagrees with him politically, but she expresses such such extreme reactions to him & his policies (depression, for instance) that she comes across as unstable. I mean seriously, I get being opposed to a politician's ideology, but to become so hate-filled and morose is disturbing to me, as it seems to suggest that Lamott's life is not altogether balanced. Regarding her Christianity, she claims to be a devout Christian and to have a complete, encompassing love for Jesus. I won't dispute her love for Jesus, but to claim that she is devout is committing a huge disservice to Christians who actually ARE devout. What she subscribes to is "Christianity Lite." She picks and chooses what biblical truths she believes in & adheres to, which makes me question her commitment to God. What I don't question is her almost rabid ommitment to abortion, even seeming somewhat proud that she herself had "a couple" in her younger years, and she declares it a moral imperative that children not be brought in the world who will be resented. What astonishes me about this is how completely counter it runs to biblical teaching, which not only requires us not to kill, but commands us to care for widows and children. There is simply no way to biblically justify her stance on abortion. She also assisted in a suicide, and was admittedly proud to be a part of this man's death plan. Here again she believes & espouses something that is absolutely not supported by scripture, and yet she is attaching moral superiority to the choice. This is problematic for me, because we as humans are incapable of seeing all that God sees, or knowing all that God knows, yet she is willing to take on a God-like role with the limitations of our humanity. That's just scary...and stupid...and arrogant in the extreme. Finally, she made a conscious to have a child out of wedlock. For a devout, committed Christian, this is anathema, and yet she describes it as a decision she came to because she was ready to be a mother and there was no suitable spouse with whom to create a stable home. Furthermore, this in & of itself verifies that she has engaged in premarital sex, not to mention that she has already admitted to having "a couple" abortions. Granted, she may not have been a professing Christian at the time of those abortions - and she was a practicing alcoholic & drug user - but to become a Christian and not loathe what are rightly labeled the sins of one's past, nor to express remorse for having done those things, is to completely miss the point of GRACE. We are saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, freely given to us, and when we truly accept that gift, we are reborn & renewed in our hearts, with a desire to follow hard after Christ. Of course we fail, but if our hearts are truly changed, then we continue striving to put Christ at the center or our lives. No where in her book does Lamott describe a relationship with God that puts him at the center of her life. How can she, when so many other things take precedence to God? She swerves into grace occasionally, and even then, she describes it as more of her own doing than God's. This was the most disappointing, frustrating and infuriating book I have read this year. Unless you are a reader of like mind and heart, I would recommend avoiding this one. It will save you a lot of irritation.

  • A Gracious and Grievous Read
    From Amazon

    There were parts of this book that were profound and powerful, drawing me into thinking deeply about the goodness of God and the challenges of life. The sections about Lamott's relationship with her son were particularly poignant, as was the chapter on assisted suicide. Lamott's reflections on nature and her own growth as a person (getting sober, coming to terms with her family background) were also helpful and encouraging. The book was somewhat spoiled for me by rants about right-wingers and George W. Bush and abortion and various other things. Being shrill is not the badge of authentic humanity. Lamott needs to extend some grace to those with whom she disagrees without demonizing them. In fact, if such an approach could be extended to our entire culture we would be better by far.

  • Growing On Me
    From Amazon

    After reading the prologue and a few of the essays I understand why so many women in their 50s seem to just love Anne Lamott. She is one of them. I'm nearly finished with this book and have grown to appreciate her. She has a very easy going style, fluid and clear. i suppose I don't entirely relate to her because she talks quite a bit about her sordid past of being an alcoholic and drug user. It takes me aback and I can't relate except as one might to a friend whose own destructive behaviors make me uncomfortable and sad for the loss of healthy life. But as I'm reading, I'm engaged by her style and find she's becoming a friend whose history drags into stories that define who she is.

  • Good but not up to previous books....
    From Amazon

    I still love Anne Lamott but I must say I felt disappointed and frustrated by this, her latest book. I expect Anne to be unconventional, surprising, and even borderline irreverent (at least by strict conventional standards) but I wasn't prepared to be shocked by one essay in particular. Perhaps the fact she can shock me speaks well of her writing. Regardless, I did get a few smiles but no chuckles or laugh-out-louds as I have in the past. The overall depressed state of our country an...more I still love Anne Lamott but I must say I felt disappointed and frustrated by this, her latest book. I expect Anne to be unconventional, surprising, and even borderline irreverent (at least by strict conventional standards) but I wasn't prepared to be shocked by one essay in particular. Perhaps the fact she can shock me speaks well of her writing. Regardless, I did get a few smiles but no chuckles or laugh-out-louds as I have in the past. The overall depressed state of our country and her deeply felt visceral response to it no doubt put a damper on the potential for laughter. I can certainly relate to that. Worth reading if you are a die-hard Anne Lamott fan but not a good introduction to her if you've never read her before. Start with Bird by Bird or Traveling Mercies if you are new to her writing.

  • An awesome book filled with sincerity, political thoughts and generous ideas.
    From Amazon

    Anne Lamott has an easy manner that makes you feel like you're having a heated conversation with your best buddy sitting at the kitchen counter drinking coffee; her writing is honest, caring, and fun, even talking about grace and faith. You will find this book to be a great read because it will make you look within yourself and think things through. I love writing that surprises me with simplicity and originality. "Grace (Eventually)" shows a softer side of Anne, a maturing and acceptance of the things she cannot change. She talks about her son, her dog, her mother, her church, her city, etc. Lamott says things that will push a lot of buttons, for example thoughts on assisted suicide and abortion. She also talks about believing in Jesus and His teachings and His example of love and mercy. For those annoyed by the cultural environment, she gives a call to more understanding. For those who disagree with her, she also calls for grace by asking us to accept her as she is in all her authentic imperfection. I recommend it with all my heart you won't ever forget this book or its author.

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