An Interview with Anne Lamott

Author Anne Lamott talks religion and shares her current media picks.

| May-June 1999

People crave laughter, and writer Anne Lamott has satisfied that craving for many readers in a series of poignant and funny works. After years of drug and alcohol abuse and the deaths of her father and her best friend, Lamott admits that she has “had a lot of practice at not feeling good.” And yet she writes about her pain and neuroses in a way that helps her readers reckon with and laugh at their own.

Lamott’s new book, Traveling Mercies (Pantheon), is a collection of storylike essays about faith. Lamott’s belief in God surprises even her, given that her family of liberal intellectuals felt that “believing meant that you were stupid.” Lamott grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. She dropped out of college to write and published her first novel, Hard Laughter, at 26. Since then she has written four more novels and two best-selling nonfiction works: Operating Instructions, a journal of her life during her son Sam’s first year, and Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. She also writes “Word by Word,” an “online diary” for Salon. Lamott spoke with writer Linda Buturian during her recent book tour.

What newspapers do you read?
The San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Observer

What magazines?
I subscribe to The New Yorker and I buy People pretty regularly.

What trends in the media make you mad?
There aren’t many, really. I’m kind of a gossip hound, but watching the media whip the small fires into giant forest fires so that they can cover the result is infuriating. I’m horrified to see that, with the impeachment over, they’re going to do Y2K now until we just don’t even care what happens on January 1.

Do you listen to the radio much?
When I’m in the car I listen to the Christian station. Of course you expect to be infuriated by the Christian station, but I like to hear Scripture and old hymns. And I listen to oldies.

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