In Marin / READING LIST
MM: What do you hope the reader
will gain or learn from this book? AL:
I hope this collection of new and old
pieces will give people hope during
troubling times and help them see
that grace and light are all around us,
all the time, in surprising forms. We
know we’ve been touched by grace
— which is akin to spiritual WD- 40 —
when we get our senses of humor back.
I really hope this book makes people
laugh out loud and reminds us that life
has a tendency to keep working out.
MM: What did you learn from writing
this book? AL: I keep learning that
life is really a mixed grill: hard and
sweet, tough and hilarious, lovely and
infuriating, often at the same time. I
learned once again that it takes me
several drafts to get my pieces as
good as I want them to be.
MM: Do you have a writing group
or partner? AL: I need total quiet
and privacy, but I do have two
friends — great writers — who read
my final drafts, and give me criti-
cism and suggestions. I would be
doomed without their creative
input. My editor at Riverhead, Jake
Morrissey, is invaluable.
MM: Do you start at the beginning of
a story or do you work backwards?
AL: I just sort of plunge in, as if I
were going to tell a friend some
interesting or funny story — I begin
at the location, a brief description,
the reason I’m there at all. A better
beginning will reveal itself if I stick
with it. Then I fumble around and
lurch for ward.
MM: What is your ideal essay
length? AL: I love 1,200 to 1,500
words. Long enough to say something of value, or to tell a story that
is not bogged down with infinitely
too many details. As the great
Jessica Mitford [and many others]
said, “Writers must kill their little
darlings”; that means removing
all of our overwrought, show-offy
passages, all the lines we shoehorned in to look more witty or
erudite. Half of writing, as in life, is
taking out stuff we don’t need. M
Small Victories: Spotting
Improbable Moments of Grace by
Anne Lamott, Riverhead, $22.95. Anne Lamott
delivers a very personal collection of essays.
Anyone who has mixed feelings about a parent
who has died will laugh and cry with Lamott
as she writes of moving from anger to forgive-
ness; she is intimate, wickedly funny and profound. Appearing at
Book Passage Corte Madera November 11, 7 p.m.
Tatiana: An Arkady Renko Novel
by Martin Cruz Smith, Simon & Schuster, $16.
Tatiana was an intrepid Russian journalist
who jumped to her death from a condemned
apartment — or did she? In his quest for
answers, Renko finds recordings made by
Tatiana and soon becomes enchanted.
Citizens Creek by Lalita Tademy, Atria,
$26. Cow Tom, born a slave in 1810, was
9 when he was sold to the chief of the
Creek Indians. He became fluent in several
languages, and his service as a translator
enabled him to buy his freedom. A parallel
story portrays Rose, Cow Tom’s grand-
daughter, who, in spite of the racism of her time, inherits
Tom’s courage to fight the issues facing her. Appearing at Book
Passage Corte Madera November 10, 7 p.m.
Some Luck by Jane Smiley, Knopf, $26.95.
The Langdons are Iowa farmers. They
have five children and readers get to know
each of them as they move from the 1920s
through to the 1950s. Readers experience
the Great Depression, World War II and the
Cold War through their eyes. Smiley’s work
(including A Thousand Acres) is both witty and insightful.
Some Luck is the first of a trilogy.
Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek by Terry
We sat down with
Shames, Seventh Street Books, $15.95. Sam
Craddock used to be the police chief in
Jarrett Creek, Texas, until the town ran out
of money. When the son of the local banker
is murdered, Sam soon discovers that the
deceased knew of shady dealings that may
have led to the town’s financial troubles.
author Anne Lamott
to discuss her new
book, Small Victories:
Moments of Grace.
Book picks by Book Passage president Elaine Petrocelli.