Editor's note: Salon is pleased to welcome Anne Lamott back to our pages. Her first column will be free to all readers, but subsequent columns will only be available to Salon Premium subscribers.
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Dec. 10, 2002 | Boy, it's good to be back. You haven't seen me here much since my last column, in July of 1999. What happened was, I wrote another novel. It took two and a half years to write (and much of the material debuted here at Salon), and then nine months to get it published. People who want to get published think that publication will give them self-esteem, and peace of mind, make them feel whole and redeemed. But it's a fantasy, like thinking that marriage, or weight loss, or money will make you well. You only look forward to publication and touring the first two times. Then, even thinking about it is like anticipating periodontal work. It's like weeks and weeks of labor, waiting to see if your baby book will look like the next Alice Sebold, or a goat. My publication date was the last day of September, and I began a national book tour, for much of the five weeks before the recent election. I did readings, during which I tried to cheer people up, help them laugh and feel less alone, and trick them into buying my book. And everywhere I went, when people asked what I was going to do next, I said that I was going to write for Salon again, and do anything I could to help the Resistance.
Is there a resistance? you may well ask. Well, maybe it's not quite as organized or heroic as the French Resistance -- yet. But the plates of the Earth are shifting. Do you know a single person who supports any of this administration's policies, in any way at all? I mean, besides your relatives?
People around the country were so scared, and hungry for hope, and for some reason I seem to have a lot of it, most of the time. If I can get through these times with my crabby sense of humor and blundering grace, you probably can too. If we survived one George Bush, we can survive them all. I have hope because the peace march here was so huge, and because Nancy Pelosi is terrific. And somehow, Kissinger's appointment to head the investigation into 9/11 is so hilarious that it has given me a new lease on life. You really gotta love the guy. How many of us could have kept our cool if our boss referred to us as "the Jew," as in, "Haldeman, get the Jew on the phone." How many of us could have lived in this country so long, and still sound so convincingly like Boris Karloff?
So I shared this hope of mine everywhere I went. Hope is costly, as Augustine said, but not as costly as giving up. And I learned once again that almost anything is worth doing, as long you get to end up back at home.
My tour began in New York City, with a radio interview for a huge audience. I waited through the introduction like a dog about to play catch. "Well!" the host asked finally. "Writing takes a lot of creativity, doesn't it."
"Yes!" I replied enthusiastically. "Quite a lot! How true!"
The next day I did an interview for an important NYC literary radio station that I had longed to be on. The host said he had read "Bird by Bird" and "Operating Instructions" a dozen times each, but he must have read the versions where they took out all the references to my sobriety. Because there I was, in my golden retriever eagerness to please, with a man who, right off the bat, offered me a Scotch. "Oh, no thanks," I said nicely, and then reminded him that I'd quit in 1986. "Sorry, sorry," he said, but at the end of the show, on air, he offered me tranquilizers as an enticement to be on his show again. "Valium!" he enthused. "Or Xanax. Or both!" And then he closed the show by announcing, "You are a delightful little creature."
I was in New York for four or five days, and waited to see if I would get reviewed by the Times. This is my ninth book and I have never gotten a daily review in the Times -- not that I am bitter. Nope, nope, nothing could be further from the truth. It's just that I secretly believe that if Michiko Kakutani likes your work, it means you are a real writer, and you will be happy and and wealthy and stable forever. The one little problem with Michiko, though, is that if she doesn't like your book, she will kill you -- cut your head off with a surgical knife, and play hacky-sack with it until she grows bored. Then, maybe in the last paragraph, she'll pour acid on it.
So that's definitely a downside.
But there's a book in front of me opened to the page where it says, "There is One who has all power," and it does not mention Michiko Kakutani. Honest -- I'm looking right at it. But it can sure feel like she does. She's like the great and glorious Wizard of Oz, and most writers feel terrorized by her. It does not seem to bring them solace when I remind them that she is going to get a bad seat in heaven. She will probably have to sit in the Mean People's Room, with Paul Wolfowitz, and Ann Coulter, and they'll mostly have to live on aerosol cheese products and lavender Necco wafers.
Next page | Waiting for my essential fraudulence to be revealed
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