Friday, May 25, 2007

Book Guilt

I feel (a little) bad about being so critical of Lamott's latest book in my last post. After all, I'm probably partly to blame here for reading such "chicky" literature. So to redeem myself, I'm going to post a few of the good quotes from Lamott's book. Because, really, I'm not such a crabby/cynical/crotchety/mean/bitter person. So here goes:
  • “ Believing [in God] isn’t the hard part; waiting on God is.” (p. 56)
  • After lamenting with her friend that her friend's husband, Eddie, blew their vacation money on an air conditioner, Lamott confesses: “…I wanted air, too, and believed that if I had it, my house would be perfect. I’ll go to my grave convinced that you can find happiness out there, somewhere, with the right someone or good financing. If you could just get things to line up properly, you could relax, learn to experience life in all its immediacy, reconnect with who you really are, with the soul or spirit, the divine whatchacallit deep inside that sparks when it hears certain music./// We’re not stupid, Eddie and I. We are Americans.” (133)
  • “If you are mesmerized by televised stupidity, and don’t get to hear or read stories about your world, you can be fooled into thinking that the world isn’t miraculous—and it is.” (154)
  • “Then I said the stupidest thing to God: I said, “I’ll do anything you say…” (192)
  • “If there were no other proof of the existence of a bigger reality than birds, they would do it for me.” (237)

See--that wasn't so bad!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Book gripe

A loooooooooong time ago, waaaaaaay back in my college days, I read Anne Lamott's first book of memoirs/essays--Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith. It was great. At least I think it was. Like I said, that was a long time ago (7 years?) so honestly don't remember many details. But I remember laughing a lot. I also remember hearing Lamott speak at Calvin College's Festival of faith and writing and laughing some more. In fact, I remember being so impressed with the book I even considered rereading it someday (something I rarely, if ever do).

But now I don't think I will--in part because of I'm afraid of what I'll find there (in other words, I'm afraid the book will, uhm, suck.) For one thing, there was Lamott's second book of memoirs/essays that was released a few years ago, Plan B: Further thoughts on Faith. Not so hot. But I was willing to let it go. I remembered my fondness for Traveling Mercies and figured it was a fluke. But then, a month or two ago, Jill and I went to a local bookstore to hear Lamott speak/read. Lamott was (how do I say this kindly?)...annoying. (oops, that's probably not kind). Those two things probably should have been good clues that its time for me to give up on Lamott, but I didn't. Instead, I got myself a copy of her latest book, Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith. I guess I was still hoping for redemption. But I didn't find it. The book was really not very good. In fact, I might even say it was lousy. Here are a few of the things I found lacking.
  • The content: Lamott subtitles her book "Thoughts on Faith." The truth is that there are actually very few thoughts on faith. Now, if she had called it "Thoughts on being middle aged", or "Thoughts on the Bush administration," or "Thoughts on weight gain" (or some combination of the above) the title would've fit. But she didn't.
  • The concept: Speaking of the title--those of you who are especially observant may have noticed that the three books mentioned above are all variations on a single theme (according to the titles): "Thoughts on Faith." I have to say, enough already. I suspect that the good material made it into the first book and the last two are full of the leftovers. Time for something new...
  • The comparisons: as one of my acquaintances points out, the low point of the book may be the line--"I sat tight. As tight as a sphincter." Ugh.
  • The criticisms (sorry, I'm stretching for a "C" here): Lamott has some harsh words for people who are conservative/"fundamentalist" in their faith and in their politics. That's fine with me. But what really gets my beef is that even while she speaks so strongly against folks who see the world in black/white on one end of the spectrum, she does the same thing herself on another end (I think this is called a double standard). You dislike Bush, protest the Iraq war, vote pro-choice etc etc and you're in and one of the good guys, if not, you're out...there's no middle ground.

So those are a few. I shouldn't make it sound like reading the book was complete misery, and pardon me if I sound like a book snob. Or (in keeping with the "C"s) a cranky old cynic. It's really not my usual practice to rip apart books (I usually choose indifference when I don't care for a book). But hey, I need something to write about.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Saying Good-bye

Last week, Jill and I said good-bye to an old friend. She was only 19 years old. We'd been together five years. We've been through a lot together--even seen (a small part of) the world together. I'll admit, she wasn't perfect. She was a little ugly. Some would say "gutless." Or even "worn out."

But she was so faithful, so dependable, so...low maintenance.

Our friend, an '88 Toyota Corolla wagon (aka: "The Beater Wagon") has gone to a better place now. At least I hope it's better. We decided that we didn't need her* services anymore and so we passed her on to someone who would get more use out of her. So I guess for the Beater Wagon, our parting is not so much an ending as a new beginning. Not so much "goodbye" as "hello."

As the first car either Jill or I ever owned, she probably deserves a more moving eulogy. Maybe I should write a poem. Or a funeral dirge. But alas, the grief is too great. The pain too deep. So I'll just list off a few things that I'll miss...

  1. Being able to sing "Big guy in a little car."

  2. The cloud of blue smoke she'd belch out after sitting idle in our driveway a few days.

  3. Hauling couches, dogs, lamps, bikes, grills, mattresses, and about anything else you can name...

  4. Being able to say that I drive a station wagon.

  5. The smug feeling of self-satisfaction and moral superiority I get knowing that my car is crappier than your car.

  6. The great free advertising I was giving to Dordt College with my "Alumni" sticker in the back window (I took the sticker off). What better proof could there be than that car that Dordt alumns are very successfull?
  7. The duct tape that held the blinker/light switch together.

  8. The long list of "quirks" I'd have to tell people who wanted to borrow the car.

  9. The raw power of that four cylinder engine.

  10. The great connecting point I had with my neighbor as we talked cars: the points of comparison between the Corolla and his new Porsche were endless. Really.

*Why are cars always personified with the feminine pronoun?

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

A Manly Man...and other news

Well, Monday night at 7:19 pm it became official--I'm a manly man now. That was the moment that I finished assembling my new grill. That's right, we have a grill now. And I assembled it. And from this point forward, we'll be eating meat. Lots of meat. That I "Barbecue" (not "cook"--cooking is for ladies. Barbecuing is for manly men).
Here is a picture of the new beast in all it's glory.

Here's a picture of me, doing what manly men do. Pretend that's steak, not chicken.

In other news, the Platte River is VERY high right now. This is the point on the Platte River Bike Trail (which runs next to the Platte River) where I had to turn around today--there was just no getting through that one.

Here's a point a little further down the trail. I chose to walk around the other side, through the rocks where it was dry. This guy was slightly smarter than his friend, who tried to ride through that water. He ended up submerged up to his mid-thigh and, ultimately, tipping over into quite a deep pool of water. I shouldn't delight in the misfortunes of others, but I really wish I had had my camera out a few seconds sooner.

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