As much as I read, there are not very many authors whose books I buy the day they come out. That probably has something to do with the big stack of books I already own that are waiting to be read. Anne Lamott is one of the few writers whose books automatically jump to the top of my reading list. Her newest book, Grace (Eventually), which hit stores last week, is the third book of essays she’s written on life and faith, the other two being Traveling Mercies and Plan B. It’s a fairly quick read, 250 pages, and wonderful. I wouldn’t recommend reading it while at a coffee shop, unless you don’t mind strange looks for the frequent chuckles her writing provokes.
In an essay on helping to raise funds to prevent the closings of libraries, she writes a couple great sentences on the importance of books and reading.
We came together because we started out as children who were saved by stories, stories read to us at night when we were little, stories we read by ourselves, in which we could get lost and thereby found.
If you are mesmerized by televised stupidity, and don’t get to hear or read stories about your world, you can be fooled into thinking that the world isn’t miraculous – and it is.
Reading and books are medicine. Stories are written and told by and for people who have been broken, but who have risen up, or will rise, if attention is paid to them. Those people are you and us. Stories and truth are splints for the soul, and that makes today a sacred gathering. Now we were all saying: Pass it on.
And here’s an excerpt from another chapter about her experience at church one week, after things had not been going well.
Then I headed to church.
And it was not good.
The service was way long, and boring, and only three people had shown up for the choir, and the song they sang sucked. There was a disruptive baby who had about three hours of neck control but was already spoiling everything for the rest of us. I sat with a look of grim munificence, like so many of your better Christians, exuding mental toxins into the atmosphere. I decided that this church was deteriorating. I had come for a spiritual booster shot and instead got aggravation. I was going to leave, and never come back.
Then something amazing happened. I would call it grace, but then, I’m easy. It was that deeper breath, or pause, or briefly cleaner glasses, that gives us a bit of freedom and relief.
I remembered Sam at this church in his first months, making loud farting noises with his mouth, or sobbing uncontrollably about the state of things, and no one seemed to care or notice. This memory evoked patience in my anxious, complaining heart. The squalling baby and I tired ourselves out at about the same time. He fell asleep; I pinched the skin of my wrist, to bring myself back to my body.
I realized I was going to get through this disappointing service, and anyway, you have to be somewhere: better here, where I have heard truth spoken so often, than, say, at the DMV, or home alone, orbiting my own mind. And it’s good to be out where others can see you, so you can’t be your ghastly, spoiled self. It forces you to act slightly more elegantly, and this improves your thoughts, and thereby the world.
You can buy Grace (Eventually) at your local bookstores, or through Amazon (where you can also find a good interview with her).