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The writer, Anne Lamott, is a woman of many contradictions.
She is a devout Christian with very liberal politics and unusual
friendships. She has a crude, cynical sense of humor, yet she is
a warm and tender mother to Sam. She is an ex-drug addict and alcoholic
who has a black sense of humor about death. Lamott rarely takes
one side without exploring the attractions of the other. This is
particularly evident in her interactions with a ruthless student
who lashes out at another student in class. Though Lamott feels
the criticism was too harsh, she also recognizes that the student
was brave in her honesty. The ability to see all sides of the issue
makes Lamott approachable and likeable.
Lamott has made a career of delving deep into her inner
feelings and personal tragedies and transforming her response to
them into books and essays. Bird by Bird typifies
her approach. Throughout the book, Lamott talks about faith, creativity,
and community as ways to deal with the dark side of life. Far from
being a stereotypically isolated writer, Lamott has many unusual,
often eccentric friends. Most of these friends are fellow writers
or fellow churchgoers. Though she refers to her many close friendships,
she never mentions whether she was married, or if she has any kind
of relationship with Sam’s father. Lamott believes herself to be
a strange creature, and it is through her writing that she establishes
identity and community. When her writing fails her, she turns to
faith; when her faith is shaken, she turns back to her writing.
The child of a successful writer, Lamott was encouraged
to be creative at a very early age. She dislikes authority and feels
confined by ordinary life. Though she finds her niche in college
with socialists and hippies, she drops out to pursue a more informal
kind of education. She notes that she, like her father, is essentially
“unemployable.” Even the publishing world, with its temptations
and obligations, proves too restrictive for Lamott. She values the
creative art of writing over the business of publishing. The only
authority she seems comfortable with is the church. Lamott values individuality
and freedom and finds these traits attractive in others.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Bird by Bird!