Friday, November 23, 2012

Anne Lamott: By the Book - author interview

Published: November 21, 2012  - The New York Times

The author of “Help Thanks Wow” is a fan of gossip magazines. “If people call when I am reading The Enquirer, I say, . . . ‘I’m just lying here reading the new New Yorker.’ ”
Anne Lamott - Illustration by Jillian Tamaki
What book is on your night stand now?
Three books: One is “Gypsy Boy,” by Mikey Walsh; a novel, “The Darlings,” by Cristina Alger; and a wonderful collection of stories by Alethea Black, “I Knew You’d Be Lovely,” which reminds me so much of the late, great Laurie Colwin.

When and where do you like to read?
I like to read away as much of the afternoon as possible, until real life rears its ugly head. During the day, I read on the couch in the living room, and tend to read nonfiction or The New Yorker during this time. Then I am in bed by 11 p.m. and read for an hour or so, often a novel. Sometimes I also sneak into the guest room to read in the early evenings — although since I live alone, sneaking from room to room is just a personal preference. Reading various books at once is sort of like doing an enjoyable Stations of the Cross. I read The New York Times and The San Francisco Chronicle every morning in bed, then end up at the couch, possibly the guest room, and then back to bed.

What was the last truly great book you read?
“Behind the Beautiful Forevers,” by Katherine Boo, about life in a Mumbai slum. It’s nonfiction that is as riveting as a great novel — so absolutely exquisite that it made me sort of sick. I will never write anything nearly that good and accomplished. It’s the same with Adam Hochschild’s “To End All Wars,” about World War I. Just sickening. I have known him for 30 years, though, so it’s not entirely objective. Junot Díaz’s “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” is extraordinary. “After Mandela,” by Douglas Foster, is exquisite, an epic work of nonfiction about South Africa’s struggle for freedom after apartheid. But he’s one of my very best friends so I’m not sure if it’s legal for me to mention it in the tiniest possible way. If I promise to get rid of him, can I include it here?

Are you a fiction or a nonfiction person? What’s your favorite literary genre? Any guilty pleasures?
I read the same amount of nonfiction and fiction. I love memoirs, literary novels and, secretly, legal thrillers, but could not finish the last John Grisham — we must have standards, no matter how low. My guiltiest secret is that every Thursday, I buy People magazine, Us Weekly and The National Enquirer. If anyone asks about this, I will lie and maintain that I just said it to be funny. If people call when I am reading The Enquirer, I say, “Oh, lah de dah, I’m just lying here reading the new New Yorker.”

What book changed your life?
“A Wrinkle in Time” saved me because it so captured the grief and sense of isolation I felt as a child. I was 8 years old when it came out, in third grade, and I believed in it — in the plot, the people and the emotional truth of their experience. This place was never a good match for me, but the book greatly diminished my sense of isolation as great books have done ever since. I must have read it a dozen times. 

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