This book is a classic and my favorite memoir about writing and life. Every time I pick it up, it is even better than I had remembered - and that’s saying something. I’m writing about it today because I’m going to see Anne Lamott tonight at Alverno College in Milwaukee (tickets still available for $16 +$5 fee, call 414-382-6044 between noon and 6 p.m.) . She’s on tour for the paperback release of Imperfect Birds (other tour dates here).
You may think that you wouldn’t like this book because you’re not a writer, but if you’ve ever faced a huge project that you’ve put off until the last possible minute, worried that all your friends were conspiring against you, eaten school lunches, or had your tonsils taken out, you’ll find something to relate to in this book.
Here’s one of my favorite parts. (Some background first: Pammy is Anne’s best friend, and she’s dying of cancer.)
We had gone shopping for a dress for me to wear that night to a nightclub with the man I was seeing at the time. Pammy was in a wheelchair, wearing her Queen Mum wig, the Easy Rider look in her eyes. I tried on a lavender minidress, which is not my usual style. I tend to wear big, baggy clothes. People used to tell me that I dressed like John Goodman. Anyway, the dress fit perfectly, and I came out to model it for her. I stood there feeling very shy and self-conscious and pleased. Then I said, “Do you think it makes my hips look too big?” and she said to me slowly, “Annie? I really don’t think you have that kind of time.” ( p. 170)
Anne Lamott is the kind of person who tucks an index card in her back pocket when she takes her dog for a walk in case she sees something that she wants to write down, but she folds it lengthwise so she doesn’t look bulky. Who wouldn’t love her?
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (Anchor Books Doubleday, 1995)
My rating: 5 stars