Friday, April 21, 2006

Blue Shoe by Anne Lamott

Taking Matt's advice to his own wife, I read a whole book in the last two days. I've seen Anne Lamott's name all over emergent blogs and sites and when I stumbled across her book "Blue Shoe" at the library, I popped it into my oh-so-liberal-looking backpack.

There is really no other way to say this other than, it freaked me out. Robb called in the middle of the day to find me perched rather uncomfortably in a plastic chair on the porch outside the french doors, reading anxiously. I tried to explain to him how I was nearly horrified to keep reading and just as horrified at the thought of stopping. I paused only long enough to shut the dog up in her yard when she returned from a play-date with Clementine, covered in mud up to her eyeballs. Without mopping up the mud in the bathroom, I finished this ...this....sticky novel. Lamott is obsessed with smells..."odd as puppy's breath" is just one example. As someone who is completely obsessed with smells, it was like sensory overload for me. Seriously, give me a whiff of something and I can pretty much conjure up some kind of memory, emotion, or dream that goes with it. It was exhausting. And then for about an hour after I finished it, I just moped around. I didn't know if I wanted to cry or throw up or what.

Maybe coming off the last Mitford book, it was just too much of a contrast. There was just nothing to feel good about. I know it was realistic. I know it was the way a lot of people really are. I appreciate Lamott's firm belief in God's forgiveness, but she was kind of glib about it, which I don't like. Driven by lonliness and damage they had all done to one another, the characters just slowly deterioriated before your eyes...from the children biting their nails to the parents' unfaithfulness. I suppose the reason it was so viceral was that I am lonely too. And my children are under stress. And I feel myself reaching out to grab hold of chocolate or work or whatever else to steady me sometimes, instead of God. These people, though they loved God in their own way, were never so impacted by him to have it affect their choices. They chose one heartbreak after another. I guess I still want to believe that if you make right choices that it will save you heartbreak. Isn't that what Proverbs is about?

I remember when I worked in the steakhouse in college, I had this little game of roulette that I played: an older couple would come in about 5:00 p.m. for dinner, and I would take their order. I then had to decide if they looked old enough to offer the senior discount. If I didn't offer it and they didn't say anything, they would have a coniption at checkout because I was obviously trying to screw them out of their hard-earned social security money. If I DID offer it, on the other hand, oh the horrors! They weren't old enough to get it. The looks of hatred on their faces for this rediculously young snit who didn't know anything about life throwing their age up in their faces....It wasn't pretty folks. And I didn't win very often.

One day a couple came through and I waffled. I didn't offer the discount...I couldn't believe that this lady was old enough for it. She looked maybe 55. She ordered and then asked for the discount. I squinted at her incredulously..."You can't be old enough for that!" I protested.

"I'm 72, so I think I am." She replied cooly.

My mouth actually fell open and she laughed. I was serious. She didn't look a day over 55. "How do you look so young." I stammered.

"Clean living, dear. That's the key. Clean living."

I always remembered that.

So I read some of the author's comments about the book; she claims that she did not condone the choices the characters made. And yet, you found yourself hoping for the main charcters to hook up, even though he was married to someone else. It didn't sew up neatly in the end, but maybe more like the characters cutting their losses so they could move on.

I know I'm idealistic. But I'm also pragmatic. Life is about choices. When you make bad choices, your choices become more limited. Sometimes you have to make a gamble to get something better, but I still kind of believe that old Dr. Bob Jones quote..."It's never right to do wrong in order to get a chance to do right."


Christine said...

I'm with you on this one, sweets~ I agree with your general bad feelings about Lamott (if the world blew up tomorrow, whatever was left of us would have no use for much of anything she has said), and with the old lady and her clean living philosophy.

Darla said...

hey. i'm with you on anne lamott fiction - but as for her non fiction stuff, LOVE her. she is SO real it's scary sometimes. she is very free in her thinking, and confident about it. i love that. try traveling mercies or operating instructions (a diary she wrote for her son's first year of life) it will have you crying and laughing all at the same time. it might be because she totally reminds me of a friend of mine that i love her so. but i tried her fiction stuff and took it back to the library after only reading a couple pages. didn't like it at all.

it's so funny how we all act so weird about our age, isn't it? i'll tell you right now, i LOVE it when i get carded!! ha ha!! but i'm sure when i get older and they try to offer me the senior citizen discount, i'll be a little freaked out about that. my mom seems to enjoy it though - something's wrong with her! hee hee.

anyway... love your posts as usual. you have quite the gift of writing.

ness said...

I'd be willing to give her non-fiction a shot...she does have a remarkable knack for stringing words together in a way that is very absorbing and memorable. I'm still thinking about that book...I'd also be curious what my sister-in-law had to say about her. Cathy is a genius for boiling down a book.

ness said...

oh and as to restaurant roulette...I got carded at a Mexican restaurant not too long ago and just about hugged the waiter. He laughed everytime he saw me the rest of the night. Sadly, the senior discount would probably cheer me up just as much because I'd be saving money!

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