Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Books as Medicine

'I write because writing is the gift God has given me to help people in the world. I came with curly hair, green eyes, and the ability to shape and tell stories in a way that a certain kind of person finds helpful, and funny. I love to make people laugh, because nothing is more life giving. I love to help people feel a sense of connection in their lives, by sharing the truth and details of mine — this seems to greatly decrease people's feeling of isolation. I try to write the books I would love to come upon, that are honest, concerned with real lives, human hearts, spiritual transformation, families, secrets, wonder, craziness — and that can make me laugh. When I am reading a book like this, I feel rich and profoundly relieved to be in the presence of someone who will share the truth with me, and throw the lights on a little, and I try to write these kinds of books. Books, for me, are medicine.'
--The writer Anne Lamott, responding to the question "why do you write," put to her by Powell's bookstore in Portland, Oregon. You can review several earlier mentions of Lamott here. I've mentioned the sublime Powell's bookstore earlier, here.


At 10:23 AM, Blogger Geoff Schutt said...

Rudyard Kipling remarked something to the effect: "Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind."

So, yes, books as medicine.

Thanks for sharing Anne Lamott's comments, John, and Happy Holidays, too!

At 10:29 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Happy holidays to you as well, Geoff!

At 11:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful quote, John. Its message and vitality are reminiscent of Brian Doyle, like Lamott one of the good ones. Thanks for posting.

At 11:33 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

As always, Ken, thanks for visiting.

At 11:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the medical analogy. So if the first rule of medicine is "Do no harm," the first rule of writing might be "Make no typos" ... or "Get the name right."

At 11:59 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Yes, Mike, as the wise man once observed, typos are worse than fascism. Well, not literally, but you get the idea. And the most egregious typos of all are misspelled names! I'm afraid that with the slow but steady decline of copyediting due to budget cutbacks, we're in for more rather than less of that.

At 3:13 PM, Blogger TJ Sullivan said...

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At 3:17 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Good point, TJ. But I'm not sure my wife would entirely agree with you on one of those weekends when I've spent far too much time reading and not enough time with her. The same wishes to you for '09, amigo.

At 7:44 PM, Blogger TJ Sullivan said...

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At 8:16 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

I think it's safe to say that I've never nor would ever read anything by that nimrod. In the first place, he doesn't write anything; his ghostwriter does. But even more fundamentally, I'm afraid his stuff is not quite the material of choice for anyone with an IQ in triple digits.

At 9:28 PM, Blogger TJ Sullivan said...

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At 11:17 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

No, I was teasing. It's pretty obvious O'Reilly isn't welcomed around this house. By the way, I noticed earlier today that Robert Niles in the Online Journalism Review refers to your latest masterpiece, which also got a link from Jim Romenesko's site at the Poynter Institute. You may have already noticed it, but I hope other readers will check it out here:


At 8:08 AM, Blogger Michelle O'Neil said...

Love the concept of books as medicine! You might like to read Jenny Rough's piece in A Cup of Comfort for Writers. It is a darling Anne Lamont themed essay.

Happy Holidays John!

At 8:14 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Happy holidays to you also, early bird. I imagine you have a packed day ahead of you this day before Christmas. Have a splendid one with the family. I'm guessing that JR essay is not online, correct?

At 12:45 PM, Blogger TJ Sullivan said...

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At 12:49 PM, Blogger TJ Sullivan said...

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At 12:52 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

You're right about that. While I continue to stoutly resist the urge to use those emoticons (out of either a misguided sense of purity or perhaps old fart fuddy duddyness--you choose), I certainly often observe how using them judiciously tends to make one's meaning much clearer. And in the end, that's really what it's all about.

Anyway, should you be so kind as to invest a few minutes on this Christmas eve, we'd love a report on how Angelenos transplanted from the Great Lakes/Midwest celebrate the holidays.

At 1:40 PM, Blogger TJ Sullivan said...

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At 1:49 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Lovely, lovely stuff! Thanks for that, T.J. Might that perhaps nudge some of our other readers from beyond the Northeast Ohio region to tell us how they're celebrating? We'd especially love to hear from regulars such as Art in Wisconsin, Mr. Bluster in Oklahoma and anyone else I've forgotten. And of course, we don't want to neglect you either, dear NEO/Clevelanders. Please, everyone feel free to leave some news about your plans for the holiday. If we get even a handful, we'll be sure to repost them as a full entry tomorrow. Thanks in advance.

At 1:51 PM, Blogger TJ Sullivan said...

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At 2:30 PM, Blogger Diane Vogel Ferri said...

An Anne Lamott quote always makes me feel like a better person.

At 2:53 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

TJ, the name of that comedy show made me laugh. And Diane, I sure do agree with you on that. There's simply no other writer like her. Have a warm and wonderful Christmas with your family.

At 8:54 PM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

The details are long and boring to anyone but me; first Xmas without my parents, on my own. Been celebrating with good family friends, second family as it were. But also dealing with a lot of feelings, mostly good ones, just a bit overwhelming. I'm writing it all up in one of my journals, so I can track my feelings, as I've been doing for awhile now. It will turn up on the Road Journal eventually.

Meanwhile, I went to Mom and Dad's church last night, which I haven't been back to since their funerals, for the Xmas candlelight and music service. It felt like the completion of a cycle. After this, I'm free to do whatever I chose, from here on out.

When I got home, I wrote late into the night. This arrived last night, unexpectedly:


Completely uncharacteristic for tree-worshipping non-orthodox pagan-poet me. You just never know where a poem will come from.

At 9:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Deepest pain is a fertile womb for poetry;
combine that with reflection,
hope, healing, joy, friends, traditions,
and wonder unspeakable for an outpouring
that is a painting of the intersection of your heart
and so many things that you will look back upon
in the future and be glad you were fully human enough to really
and know
the moment, the time, and your heart.

Times like these reveal things that civilized life stifles.
The world needs poets
and tree huggers,
and I am grateful today for those who entered the
circle of my pain and expanded its boundaries to
encompass joy.
We are glad for your family of friends Art,
and your poem reminded me of a power beyond
comprehension that I understood as a child
(though now I
and stand outside as a poor shepherd
humbly thankful for every wonder that
lights upon my way).

A Wonder-filled Christmas to you all.

At 12:23 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Thanks for the touching story, Art. You've nicely honored your parents' memory by completing that cycle. Have a splendid new year, my friend.

At 4:13 AM, Blogger Erin O'Brien said...

I write because I can do it in the nude at 4 a.m.

At 4:54 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Even in the winter, Erin? I hope you won't catch a wicked cold.


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