Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Beyond FACTS: BIRD BY BIRD by Annie Lamott

I rarely find time to read a book more than once unless it’s for Junior Great Books, but I’m glad I returned to this treasure, Bird by Bird by memoirist and novelist Anne Lamott. I’m using it and a documentary on the author (Bird by Bird with Annie by independent filmmaker Freida Lee Mock) in a University of Colorado class on identity and artistry this fall and in the spring. I’ve been asked to present at this class as one of seven associates of the Rocky Mountain Women’s Institute, a Denver-based program that supports local writers and artists. As an associate, I’ll work on a collection of short stories during the 2007-2008 academic year and meet with other associates on a regular basis to plan an April showcase.

So onward to Annie. If you’ve ever read any of her work, you’ll understand why Bird by Bird or her other memoirs ring so true not only for their insights into the creative process but for their advice on living and simply experiencing one’s own unique life on a very personal, daily, even minute-by-minute basis. “How alive am I willing to be at this very moment?” she asks, and in the documentary she’s shown at that moment wading into the ocean, the edge of her sundress’s skirt dipping into the water as she turns and seems to inhale the essence of the scene that embraces her. In her work and teaching, she continually refers to the need for artists to remain open to the world and its many wonders, and then to apply what they observe to work at hand. Her written words coincide beautifully with what she says in Mock’s documentary, from the direct “Get real and get a little work done every day, and write what’s real” to the sublime “The way I dance is by writing.” Revisiting Bird by Bird after a good ten years is like visiting an old friend who doesn’t mind telling you again what she told you so long ago, while you thoroughly enjoy hearing again what still holds so true. Discovering this book’s complementary documentary, for me, only added to the wonder that is Annie.

Photo credit: Jo Anne Hertz

2 Comments:

Blogger steve said...

I enjoyed hearing Annie Lamott on NPR--on either Fresh Air or Diane Rehm--but I'm afraid I was disappointed with the book itself. Actually, I just couldn't get very far with it. She's helped a lot of people with writing, but I wasn't one of them. There's a new book on writing by Walter Mosley. I loved him on NPR, but I haven't seen the book yet.

8:13 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Hi Steve! Do you think she appeals more to women writers with her casual self-deprecating approach and nearly-new-agey language? Thanks for the note about Walter Mosley's new book. I'll be sure to check it out. K.

9:04 AM  

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