Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What Every Good Mentor & Teacher Knows

'And then learn to be more compassionate company, as if you were somebody you are fond of and wish to encourage. I doubt that you would read a close friend's early efforts and, in his or her presence, roll your eyes and snicker.'
--author Anne Lamott. To review my earlier mentions of this sublime word sculptor (some brief, others substantial), go here, here, here, here, here, here and here. And for the record, I fully agree with my friend Jeff Hess's assessment that her fiction doesn't begin to hold a candle to her essays and memoirs. But then, perhaps that's only because we're guys. And you know how clueless they can sometimes be.


At 8:15 AM, Blogger Jeff Hess said...

Shalom John,

The most troubling aspect of Lamott's writing for me is its relationship to her mental health.

I remember commenting to another write friend of mine after she'd stopped writing essays for Salon's Mothers Who Think section: "they got her meds right."

Suddenly her writing had lost its brilliance and was as exciting as a half-empty beer discovered in the grass the morning after the family reunion.

And that saddened me.

I thought, how selfish of me to think it bad that her doctors had found the right pharmaceutical cocktail to smooth out her mania and depression.

I don't know what I would do in that situation.

I recommend the excellent novel: Lying Awake for an examination of this question.



At 12:01 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Readers can indeed be fiendishly selfish about their favorite writing voices, which of course isn't such a bad thing for those writers. Just nice to have anyone who cares that much. And in her case, there are very many anyones who care.

Thanks also for that book recommendation, Jeff. I'm going to check it out very soon. If anyone else does as well, please report back and tell us what you think of it.

As you and I have talked about a bit and also written about more, there's an endlessly fascinating connection between being not quite right in the mind--not completely comfortable with oneself or one's surroundings--and extreme creativity with the written word. If you're too comfortable and have too few internal conflicts, emotional and otherwise, the urge to figure things out (about both oneself and the world) and articulate them in words is often missing, or at least seriously reduced.

Anyway, I'm bummed to have missed another Socrates night last night. I almost made it there. And I tip my hat to whomever chose to move it to my neighborhood, the Joseph-Beth bookstore at Legacy Village.


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