Who doesn't adore Annie Lamott? She's the one who taught us to write (Bird by Bird), how to raise our kids (Operating Instructions), and how to find the goodness and spirituality in all of us. Her latest book Dusk Night Dawn is an astonishing vitamin for the way we live now, a way to come back from the horrors of the Pandemic, the horrors of the Trump years, too.
I am thrilled to be live interviewing Anne on A Mighty Blaze this Friday at 4 ET. Just come to the FB page and you can be a part of it, and even ask Anne questions!
Thank you for this, Annie. Big love.
Dusk Night Dawn is so powerful and so healing to read, and I think because it is so honest about things like forgiveness, hope, dread. Are there moments when you are writing where you feel, uh oh, I can’t be that honest, and then you talk yourself done and you say what you need to?
—I really save the deeply intimate stories and details of my life for a few friends and the random husband and son. The stories in my book are about universal truths and problems—ie that most of us have equal proportions of self-doubt and grandiosity, of faith and fear; that loneliness is part of the human condition, that we have all screwed up right and left. What does happen is that Neal or my editor will gently suggest that something I’ve written will be misunderstood, or seen as downright antisocial or just gross.
You’ve always written gorgeous prose, but the writing in Dusk Night Dawn is even richer. How did that come about? And is it still true that you will never write another novel?
—Thank you! I think this book is a little more mystical, because it is so much about finding our center, our soul, when things are incredibly hard, both in the nation and at the dinner table, or awake in the middle of the night (the Swedes call 3:00 a.m. “the hour of the black dogs.”) And soul material doesn’t lend itself to intellectual erudition, so I needed to do the deep-dive towards the inside kiosk of the soul, where we are friendly awareness and fascination—so I’m glad if this heart and soul stuff was lucid!
So much of Dusk Night Dawn is about your wonderful later in life marriage. (I always believe the best things come later. Spoke as a woman who had her first and only child in her 40s!) Do you think you would have been open to a relationship like this early on or that you had to become the person you are now to have it?
—I definitely had a lot of healing to do before I could be available for a rich, safe relationship. I had to get over my addiction to people-pleasing. Also, I remember about five years ago I was overwhelmed with trying to save and fix other people, making their well-being my priority, and feeling taking advantage of because I was *nobody’s* priority. I got furious and grief struck by it one day, and went for a drive in the country where I shouted and cried in the car. Then I pulled over, picked up the 200 pound cell phone, and called my spiritual adviser of 30 years, Horrible Bonnie and shared with her—the rage and sorrow. She said, “Hooray! This is what we paid for! Get it out!” And then she said, “You need to make yourself your own priority, before you’ll be anybody else’s.” So I did, and a few months later, met Neal. And now we are each other’s priorities!
What I loved in the book was how hilarious it was—the way you deal with people who I would probably snap at—including many conservatives, since many conservatives are deeply religious. So I wanted to know how you do this?
—Sweet of you to say, but most of the time, it all becomes hilarious a little while later. At the time, I might have just lost my mind, but eventually, and usually when I see my own part in the misery or hostilities, I get my sense of humor back. Then I’m halfway home. Laughter truly is carbonated holiness.
You write so beautifully about an unbeautiful topic: dread. I’m asking for a friend—ha ha no I’m not—but how do you stop being afraid about the future because sometimes this friend-ha ha—gets so worked up –they think when is this life going to be over so they don’t have to worry anymore?
—Neal has really helped me with dread. He has a website (and forthcoming book) called shapes of truth.com, where he helps people with their inner critic, which he calls the super-ego, and I call my governess Dread growing up. He helped me identify when she is at the helm—when I was scaring myself and feeling small. He helped me quiet her down so she didn’t drive my life. She kept me alive when I was small—so I didn’t run into the street, or swim in the deep end. But now I can thank her, and ask her—Dread, my governess, the super ego—to hang out in the library and do some deep research for me, while I do my life.
Rereading your book feels new! It’s like you reread a novel but you know, oh here is where the girl jumps off her house. But your book--rereading is like getting out your favorite warm blanket and suddenly realizing that it is glinting with real gold threads you never noticed before. Do you reread your own work? Do you find something new in it every time?
—I’ve been reading it because I’ve been on virtual book tour for a month, doing readings and podcasts. Sometimes I’m kind of surprised that I thought of a good sentence or passage, or yeah, I’ll notice something for the first time, that I either TOTALLY wish my editor had made me take out because it is so lame, or that’s kind of cool! And I NEVER listen to my audio books for podcasts, because when Sam was 10, and I was on Rosie O’Donnell’s show, he asked me very gently if I had a speech impediment.
What’s obsessing you now and why?
—I’m obsessed with helping uphold voting rights! I send off money to anyone Stacy Abrams tells me to, and I’ll start writing postcards for the midterms in a few more months. Also, this is very petty, but I’ve been a little obsessed about the Covid Ten. This morning I was sitting up in bed, with my iPad on my lap, and my little tummy roll actually crept over to the iPad and started typing. Hank you and love you, Caroline. See you Friday!