I’ve been reading Anne Lamott, and not the book I wanted to read, either. I went to the library last week and grabbed a supply of novels, needed supplies for me during the best of times, but especially in the winter. And I also grabbed a book by Anne, called “Grace (eventually): Thoughts on Faith” since Bird by Bird was out. (Bird by Bird was going to kickstart my writing career.) I figured I’d read a chapter of Lamott and then a novel, a chapter of the non-fiction, and then a novel. This was my plan.
I should probably tell you a little about my novel habit. I am regrettably omnivorous in the reading department. I don’t have a habit of deconstructing or analyzing the fiction I consume. And I do consume: rapidly and without much reflection. This is, I have come to realize, a way to manage my anxiety. When I look backward at my reading life, I can see that particularly difficult times in my life were punctuated by lots and lots of fiction. There was a time in my early forties when I was diving through ten or twelve mysteries a week, a nice mix of the humorous character in a quintessential small town type along with the likes of Patricia Cornwell and Jonathan Kellerman. I was also working (two jobs) and raising a family (three teens at that time in my life) and spent virtually every free minute wrapped up in a book.
Hmm….that reminds me of one of my mother’s oft-repeated complaints about me. “Leslie Ann, get your nose out of that book. You’ve got your nose stuck in a book all the time.” This from the woman who perfected the art of sitting tipped back in a kitchen chair with her feet tidily tucked into the oven of the oil cookstove, the warmest place in the house, while deeply immersed in books of her own.
That maternal image was a diversion. I should be looking at my own behaviour. I have to say that I am not entirely sure why I have taken another nose-dive into reading (and reading and reading…) but if Anne Lamott is going to be supplying some of the goodies, I’m in better hands that I might have been. That is to say that I got totally shanghaied by her book. Instead of my neat plan to alternate fiction and non, Anne grabbed me off the kitchen chair and plunged me into her own stories of juicy, messy, twisted life. And coming through it, not with blue ribbons or halos, but alive. Really, truly alive.
So what am I trying to control with my excessive reading? Does all that reading support my own aliveness? Or am I using it to tamp down my feelings so I (maybe) don’t know what’s going on inside me? Given the way that I have used books and reading in my past (much like a person might abuse drink or shopping, I suspect), I may need to look closely at that. But not until I finish this lovely stack from the public library.