by Anne Lamott, reading at Powell's City of Books, 1005 W. Burnside, Thursday March 17, 7:30 pm
Anne Lamott is a Christian, but she doesn't act like one. She believes in clothing and feeding the poor, practicing compassion over force, standing up to those who abuse power, and living life as if we were tiny, imperfect, meaningful blips on an infinite, beautiful continuum. Oh yeah, and she really, really hates George Bush.
Her new collection of short essays, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, is a follow-up to Traveling Mercies, her 2000 jewel of a book in which she laid out her laid-back, non-creepy brand of hippie values and Buddhist common sense. Lamott's gift is her total lack of pretentiousness and her willingness to lay forth her faults and neuroses. She is also not especially pious, evidenced on page nine of Plan B, when she mentions "The problem with God--or at any rate, one of the top five most annoying things about God…" Let's see Mel Gibson or Kirk Cameron be so blunt.
One of the main themes of Plan B is Lamott's absolute intolerance for George Bush. She writes about the terror and despair she feels when watching CNN, and how she can't stomach the sight of Bush's "little monkey face." The problem, she recognizes, is that this isn't a particularly Christian attitude to have, and it only serves to ruin many of her otherwise beautiful California days. Much of the book is devoted to finding inner peace despite the atrocities our government is committing. Lamott will be the first to tell you that it's not an easy task, but it is possible, and it does have its own rewards.
Unfortunately, Plan B gets overly pithy in the third act with a tiresome piece about how Lamott couldn't enjoy a luxury cruise because her thighs were too fat. The short essays in this collection were originally written on deadline for Salon.com, and after the first few dozen, it shows. A tighter edit would have helped Plan B greatly, but we forgive Lamott because she is such a sane, necessary voice in this mad world. And because, the author reminds us, it's one of those pain-in-the-ass, good-for-you things to do.