Books

20 Questions: Anne Lamott

Photo (partial) by ©James Hall

Everyone in Anne Lamott's books is sort of screwed up, but she stocks them with an irresistible humor and core decency. Her latest, Imperfect Birds, releases 6 April.

Anne Lamott's hard-luck novels are impressive chronicles of family strife punctuated by bad (but often entertaining) behavior. Everyone in Lamott's books is sort of screwed up, but she stocks them with a humor and core decency that make them hard to resist. Her latest, Imperfect Birds, releases 6 April.

She tells PopMatters 20 Questions how life can be just as quirky as fiction; take Jar Jar Binks, George Bush, and a rickshaw driver in New Delhi, for example.

Book: Imperfect Birds

Author: Anne Lamott

Publisher: Penguin

Publication date: 2010-04

Length: 288 pages

Format: Hardcover

Price: $25.95

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/features_art/l/lamott-impbirds-cvr.jpg1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

I saw all these movies in preparation for a recent ten day trip to India, and two of them really made me weepy -- Salaam Bombay and Water, about the little seven- or eight-year-old girl who is placed in an ashram for widows because her arranged-marriage-husband dies before she's even met him. The British are still running India, but Gandhi is just coming into prominence. It is one of the great all time movies, as is Salaam Bombay.

2. The fictional character most like you?

Pippi Longstocking, for her deep wildness and humor and independence; Jo March in Little Women, for her tomboyishness and intelligence and rebelliousness. These two females made enormous impacts on me when I was a girl. Also, Ignatius J. Reilly, for his deep and hilarious eccentricity and cluelessness.

3. The greatest album, ever?

Allman Brothers, Eat a Peach. No, wait, wait, American Beauty by the Grateful Dead. No wait, Emmylou Harris' greatest hits.

Book: Crooked Little Heart

Author: Anne Lamott

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday

Publication date: 1998-05

Length: 336 pages

Format: Paperback

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/features_art/c/crookedheart-cvr.jpg4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

I have no feeling one way or the other about either of these. Is Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars? If so, that is my favorite, because one of the auto rickshaw drivers in Old Delhi pronounced George Bush "Ja-Ja Boots", which I just love, and so maybe I'm indebted to Star Wars. Unless Jar Jar Binks is from Star Trek

5. Your ideal brain food?

Hiking. Crisp, cold morning air in the hills, hiking with my two dogs, who make me feel like Steven Jobs. GOD, they are dumb.

6. You're proud of this accomplishment, but why?

I took care of both my parents when they were dying, 25 years apart. I raised the loveliest, sweetest, funniest young man on my own, and I am holding his sleeping, six-month-old baby boy in my arms. Jax is asleep against my chest while I type this, snoring like an extreme obese alcoholic. I feel like I could faint with love and pride.

I'm proud of these things because sticking together, through hard and complicated times, is my most deeply held value.

Book: Rosie

Author: Anne Lamott

Publisher: Penguin (reprint)

Publication date: 1997-05

Length: 288 pages

Format: paperback

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/features_art/r/rosie-cvr.jpg7. You want to be remembered for...?

My political activism, and how hard I tried during the eight-year reign of Ja-Ja Boots to keep the spirits of my readers up -- how I tried to help them keep the faith in America and democracy.

8. Of those who've come before, the most inspirational are?

Martin Luther King. Mahatma Gandhi. Benazir Bhutto. Gloria Steinem, who more than anyone changed my life for the infinitely better.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

Barbara Kingsolver's Poisonwood Bible. Also her new book, The Lacuna. She is just sickeningly wonderful. Also, Mary Oliver's poetry.

10. Your hidden talents...?

I am a good Sunday school teacher, because I'm sympathetic to children. I'm a great dishwasher, and would much rather do dishes out in the kitchen with a few stragglers, than to have to socialize.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

When my best friend Pammy was dying, I asked her if I looked fat in a certain dress, and she -- from a wheelchair -- said, "Annie, you really don't have that kind of time." I live by that.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

I am wearing -- and always wear -- these simple but fabulous gold hoops from Guatemala. A very dear friend lent them to me almost 30 years ago, and the next day I said, "You know, I won't be giving them back." She said, sort of sadly, that she'd gotten that right away.

I still see her every few years, and I've always got the earrings, and we still laugh. You can see them in every author's photo of mine since my second book, Rosie.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or...?

Jeans, but not Levis, which I used to look good in. Then I had a baby, and forgot to workout at any time in the next 20 years. Although, I certainly meant to. I look okay in Ralph Lauren Saturday jeans and am almost always wearing them. J. Crew painters t-shirts -- white, black, dark green. Flip flops, and the aforementioned gold hoop earrings.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

Rachel Maddow. She would want to be my best friend and move out to Northern California so we could go for walks every day, and talk on the phone, all day every day.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

I love being exactly where I am, and the era and age I am at -- or in. I'll be 56 on April 10th, and it's fabulous. Except for the knees.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?

Naps. I give up a lot of things for a short nap most afternoons. I don't hit men -- if sufficiently provoked, I grow teary, and won't eat. Or else I binge, on Mexican food and Ben and Jerry's (NY Super Chunk Fudge.) I lie on the couch and read in lieu of hitting men and taking spa vacations. I would love spa vacations if there weren't other people there, and if they didn't skip so on the butterfat.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or...?

At one time or another, I have been seriously addicted to one or more of these sacramental elements. Now, however, I'm only compulsive about going to movies – and eating movie popcorn. Also those little white bags of movie candy from the bins, where you can mix and match four shovelfuls of different kinds of chocolate candies.

I always get the exact same amounts of plain M&Ms, peanut M&Ms, Reese’s pieces, and Raisinettes. Then I eat each piece individually, with bites of popcorn in between. But you've got to believe me, it is not addictive. Nothing could be further from the truth! Even though I do it twice a week, every week, rain or shine. With the popcorn, and the little white bags of candy. For about 15 years. (But who's counting?)

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

I like things very quiet (which is why I just got back from ten days in India, oops). I live in a semi-rural, hippie-health-food, half-hour out of San Francisco town, and it is my favorite place in the world. I grew up ten miles from here. My uncle and cousins live five minutes away, by foot. We scattered my mother's ashes half a mile away.

The stunning hiking trails of Mt. Tamalpais, sacred to the coastal Miwok, are also five minutes by foot. I grew up hiking these trails with my father and brothers. Yet there are also a lot of movie theatres within a 20-minute drive, and my church is 25 minutes away, toward Sausalito. So everything and everyone I need is nearby.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

"Push 'em back, push 'em back, we liiiiiiiiike it, we liiiike it."

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

I can't talk about it yet! Are you nuts? Do you know what bad Ju-Ju it is to discuss your next book while waiting for your current book's publication? This could only lead to a catastrophic change in one's fortunes, or a complete mental collapse. Probably both.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image