By Laurie McAndish King/November 10, 2013
“People ask why I called the new book “Stitches.” It’s because when we are stuck, or lost, or too sad, we can take one stitch.” Anne Lamott
“I wrote this book accidentally,” Anne Lamott explains. Two days after Newtown (the site of the December, 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy), Lamott found herself in her regular Sunday School class, wondering What am I going to tell these children? Where do we even start?
But Anne did know what to say. A popular novelist, essayist, memoirist and political advocate, she has been inspiring people with her words for more than twenty years. Tell them the truth, Anne reminded herself. Start where you are. Breathe. Stitch things together. And so Lamott’s latest book, Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair (Riverhead Books), was born.
I heard Lamott speak recently at Book Passage at the beginning of her book tour for Stitches. She didn’t read much from the new book. “I don’t like long readings myself,” Anne insists. “I can’t really follow them. Especially if they’re my own.”
But we got to hear her talk about meaning, about resurrection after impossibly difficult events and about the genesis of the book. “People ask why I called the new book Stitches. It’s because when we are stuck, or lost, or too sad, we can take one stitch.”
Her favorite quotation from the book: “Love is the question: How can it possibly be enough in this time, in the face of such tragedy, loss or evil? And it is the answer: It will be. How can this family or town make a comeback? The next right action, the breath of time passing, love. Go figure.”
Go figure, indeed. Stitches may have been an accident, but Lamott’s devoted readers eagerly awaited every word. Her 62,000 Twitter (@ANNELAMOTT) followers and nearly 147,000 Facebook friends write things like “You are truly inspiring and making me feel safe to shine” and “I need your wisdom like a blood transfusion!” and “YAY!!!!! My preordered Stitches just appeared in my iBooks!!!!! HAPPY TUESDAY!!!!!” They love her.
Anne on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday/OWN
They love Lamott for her chatty tweets: “My plan to look more like Kerry Washington by book tour is NOT going as well as had been hoped. The shoes are emerging as a real problem.” They love her offbeat wisdom: “I am starting to think that this body is the one I am going to have the entire time I am here.” They love her appreciation of what used to be called women’s professions: “I believe teachers and nurses are the most astonishing people, and they will get the best places in heaven, right next to the Godiva fountain.”
And they love being involved in her life. On October 27th, for example, Lamott tweeted more than forty times, and followers learned that her computer had the vapors; she had forgotten the subtitle to her own book while speaking in front of 1,000 people at a Kidney Foundation luncheon; she had locked herself out of her car at Walgreen’s after live-tweeting on Oprah; and that she considered William Blake’s saying that we are here “to learn to endure the beams of love” a “most major WOW.”
Anne on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday/OWN
It is, in part, because of her fans that Lamott has been called the “People’s Author.” Stitches will continue the tradition. On her Facebook page, Lamott said that People Magazine gave it four stars and called it her “pithiest, most insightful book yet.” Her social media audience is buzzing, “It’s like you are reaching down into the essence of my soul,” and “Anne Lamott you are a gift to us all! Thank you for blessing my morning.”
What is it that they are getting from her? The writers in the audience, myself among them, have long appreciated Lamott’s wise counsel in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. We like seeing her onstage, wearing the exact same twisted lilac bandana and white moon and star necklaces she wore recently on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, telling us what her writing life is like.
“I’m always reading poetry…. I’ve never once been in the mood to write…. When you do get published it can be devastating. It’s mostly about nothing happening. Today is my publication date; nothing happened. I felt that God came by and told me I should eat a lot.”
But Anne’s range extends far beyond writing advice. She offers comfort. Fellowship. Meaning. “Where is the meaning after Newtown?”
Lamott asks. “Where is the meaning when your wife dies in her thirties–way too young? Where is the meaning when you get the bad phone call? …The meaning is in divine love, as it is expressed in human love. It’s hard to articulate, so we tell stories.”
Anne tells us those stories. Stories about getting lost: “I’m always lost. My son got me GPS and OnStar, but I hate to bother them.” And there are her stories about growing older: “It all goes so fast! I’ll be 60 next year–I’ll be fifty-ten next year.” And stories about stitching things back together, about offering “just a couple of stitches for that very torn, raggedy day.” This book may have been written by accident, but readers are grateful for the compassion and understanding that it offers.
We’re looking forward to Anne joining us on TWE Radio in December. Podcasts will be available and the interview with Stacey will be on iTunes.