This book was given to me as a gift. A Christmas present from my Godson. In fact the first present he has ever given me. After months of languishing on my ever growing ‘To be read’ pile so, with this review slot looming, I started to read it.
The full title of the book is bird by bird, Some instructions on Writing and Life. I pulled a face. This was probably not a book I would have chosen for myself. I pursed my lips and sighed. I do not consider myself to be a great reader of ‘how to’ books. Then I glanced at one of my bookshelves. In a neat row was Stephen King, Dorothea Brande, Robert McKee, Betsy Lerner and Christopher Booker. The row was rounded off by The Penguin dictionary of Jokes. Who was I trying to kid?
Anne Lamott’s book is a slim volume and is divided into five parts; Writing, The Writing Frame of Mind, Help Along the Way, Publication and Other Reasons to Write and The Last Class. It is full of advice as well as being funny and brutally honest. It has a section entitled Shitty First Drafts in which she says ‘All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts.’
The section on jealousy particularly resonated with me. Anne says, ‘Jealousy is one of the occupational hazards of being a writer, and the most degrading. And I, who have been the Leona Helmsley of jealousy, have come to believe that the only things that help ease or transform it are a) getting older, b) talking about it until the fever breaks and c) using it as material. Also someone somewhere along the line is going to be able to make you start laughing about it, and then you are on your way home.’
This book is written in lively and sassy style. Anne is very open about her life experiences and her faith which makes this book a warm and generous guide. The perfect gift.
Bird by bird is published by Anchor Books
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