Saturday, December 09, 2006

Finding the Roadmap
To Your Life in a Book

'I knew the day I read The Only Dance There Is that this was what I was going to do with my life: pursue spiritual truth and try to help people laugh as part of their healing path. Finding that book taught me a lesson about how truth comes to us in such quirky, unexpected packages, because it was one of the worst days of my life. It was Easter Sunday, probably in 1974, and I was lying in my adorable hippie boyfriend's bed with a stomach flu, and he had gone to be with his other girlfriend, what with us being so hip and all, and me not being much of a date for Easter dinner. When he left, I really felt like I would die from being so sick and alone and jealous. Then I picked up this book he'd been reading, and I felt like it was worth any price to feel so guided, understood, trusted and entertained, all at once. My soul was so hungry and thristy for Ram Dass's voice that I read the book in one sitting--or rather, in one lying, because I was sick in bed. I remember drinking this disgusting herbal tea all day--chaparral tea, which tastes like couch stuffing--because there wasn't anything else in his house. When I was done, I washed my face, brushed my teeth, put the book down by the side of the bed, and left. It was a great day.'

--Anne Lamott, from The Book That Changed My Life--71 Writers Celebrate the Books that Matter Most to Them. Earlier, I mentioned Lamott here and here. You can read an interview with her here, and read a sample of her essays here.


At 1:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful and insightful blog! Thanks.
My love of writing is, I believe, derived from the process of re-expressing life-changing events from my past. There have been many and they've been varied. A book here and there, a destination on my travels, people I meet and indelible conversations.
The Salter quote you use made me think again about writing and reality. I often feel I am creating a new reality, albeit personal, through my words and stories.The effort spent in moulding this state, or quality, is the most creative experience I know.

At 8:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shalom John,

Lamott is problematic for me. I loved her non-fiction but found her fiction artificial. Her best work, I think, was for Salon's Working Mothers Who Think.

Then she got her meds right; and discovered god. And her writing went to shit.

Writers and mood stabilizers are a subject I have a great interest in because I have several writer friends who wrestle daily whether to take the drugs or write. It's a decision I think we would all hate to face.



At 8:43 AM, Blogger Daniella said...

I am so cynical about the notion that one book can change your life. I think "books" change people's life but not one book.

I make an exception here for people who only have access to a dictionary and can only read in five minute intervals because the bathroom is the only safe reading room. Learning the meaning of words in that context can change your perspective.

I agree with Jeff in regards to meds and creativity, it seems that stability too often turn a brilliant mind into a modest talent.

At 10:56 PM, Blogger Kelly Boyer Sagert said...

A book called On the Edge of Darkness, written by Kathy Cronkite, addresses the connection between creativity and depression brilliantly.

At 10:04 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Thank you all for adding your input. Great comments, all. I've never heard of that book, Kelly, so I think I'll check it out sometime. Daniella, in Anne's defense, she did indeed mention more than one book in that mini-chapter. I just happened to excerpt a portion in which she mentioned only one of them. Jeff, I think that she's just born to write memoirs and essays rather than fiction (of which I've never read any of hers). And as a longtime reader of hers, I'd say she's been slowly finding god for many years. For most of us (and I would assume her included) that's a lifelong journey, never a destination at which you've somehow arrived. And finally Jay, it's wonderful to hear from a Canadian visitor who's somehow stumbled over this blog. How great of you to visit and leave a comment. I hope you'll come back often.


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