Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Notes From the Nightstand: Operating Instructions

I have read so much about Anne Lamott and her writing, in particular about Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year, which is considered to be a classic in the mom-memoir genre that has since spawned a million mom-blogs (this book was written back in 1989). She's a writer's writer who is able to strike a perfect balance between humor, poignancy, politics, religion, and her personal and public lives with just the right amount of self-deprecation and honesty that never feels like embarrassing overshare.

When she found out she was pregnant with her only child, she was 35 years old, unmarried, and only a few years sober after battling an alcohol and cocaine addiction. While this may seem like the kind of uphill battle that most people will not have to overcome while parenting their newborn, everyone does face their own particular collection of challenges in that first year, and anyone who has (or will) go through it will feel a sense of camaraderie with Lamott. I ended up reading the passages about her son's colic aloud to Mike (oh, I know how much he loves it when I do that!), and we both nodded enthusiastically in agreement with her black humor about that long, dark night of the soul.  If you're looking for the straight dirt on having a baby, this is it. It's a quick read, it's funny, it's heartbreaking, and it's true.

Lamott also writes fiction in addition to non-fiction about her faith, her addiction and recovery, and writing. I'm currently reading Bird by Bird: Some Instructions for Writing and Life. She also has written a memoir about the birth of her first grandson, Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son's First Son, which I definitely have on my to-read list.

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