Since the name of this blog does imply it’s about human luminaries, I thought I’d start off with one that inspires me the most.
When people ask me who my favorite writer is, I’m often very stumped. Not only do I hate “favorite” questions, but there’s so many to choose from! And then there’s the matter of what works you have read by said writer, and how many are needed to feel justified in favoriting them. I actually don’t read as much or am not as well-read as people think. I wish I was, and yes, I was an English major, but that doesn’t automatically guarantee I’ll know even a lot there is to know about writing, and I wish I knew more writers. Factors such as the school, the professors, preferences, and even the year change things drastically. I haven’t even most of the classics other English majors have (although I have read, finished, and written an extensive literary theory paper on Bleak House by Dickens, of which I am quite proud). So I wanted to focus on my favorite contemporary literary luminary, since lately I’m reading lots of new ARCs and recent lit.
So when I think of my “favorite” writer who is also still alive, I think of someone who, though I may not have read everything by this person, challenges me almost daily to be a better person. I think of this person’s words almost every day—that is how much they resonate with me.
This writer is Anne Lamott.
My favorite words of hers are always changing. I loved her book Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, but I actually disliked the only novel of hers that I’ve read (Blue Shoe). However, for the writers out there, her writing “advice” book Bird by Bird, which I DID read in college, is UH-MAZING.
But the writing that has resonated the most with me are her occasional Facebook posts. They are small gems of essays that literally look and sometimes read like she wanted to write a Facebook status but then had so much wisdom she just let herself go. Sometimes they’re rambly, sometimes very well thought out, and always insightful.
My faith is something so small and quiet these days, and it’s not something I like to talk about very much. However, Lamott reminds me that my roots remain true, that there is hope, and that it doesn’t have to be conservative Republican 😉 (Trying to avoid politics AND faith topics on this blog, just so I can encourage unity, but this is what had to be said. I’ll leave it at that.)
She also is a firm feminist, believes in equality and human rights, and isn’t afraid to speak up or go against the status quo. She talks about the tough stuff. She talks about real life. She has dreadlocks, she gets a little sweary, and her angst is real and raw and admitting to fault but not afraid to say it like it is. And yet she remains a positive voice impacting many—regardless of faith, sexual identity, political opinions, or other differentiating factors. AND OF COURSE she loves books.
“For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”
—from Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (emphasis mine)
“Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.”
Anne Lamott, thank you for your words on life and hope and mental illness and grief and trying to enjoy and life fully each day. You are a one of my favorite voices, and I want to go on reading your Facebook posts forever. If I could have coffee with any writer on earth (which is SUCH A HARD QUESTION) it would be you.
An admiring writer.
What about you? Who is your favorite contemporary literary luminary? Or, if you could have coffee with one writer on earth, who would it be?
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