Last I spoke with Ms. Annie we talked about loving Jesus, Keith Richards and Winnie the Pooh.  And she told me that yes, sigh, she’d wash Dick Cheney’s feet in Heaven.  (Cheney has been unavailable for comment thus far.)  Anne was kind enough to speak with me again about her new book, a slim wonder titled Help, Thanks, Wow, that features this line, the finest Christian writing I’ve read in a very long time:

“This is the message of the Book of Job: Any snappy explanation of suffering you come up with will be horseshit.”

Right now, today — what’s your Help, Thanks, Wow?

My alarm failed at 5:45 am and at 6:30 the driver was ringing my doorbell and I was in my Ethel Mertz jammies, and – made a cup of coffee, fed the animals, dressed, found Help, Thanks, Wow, got to car, started off.  Then driver didn’t have address of radio station an hour away and my internet is out but went home, back inside, found address, and now safely in car, with coffee, talking to you, and NO traffic.  So all three prayers swirling together– Help!  Thanks!  Wow.

Dick Cheney’s feet in Heaven.  Help, Thanks or Wow?

All three, because it would be scary for me, and a major stretch, as on my more hysterical days, I consider him a war criminal.  But Jesus loves him just as much as He loves my grandson, and wants love and humility between His children, so I would do it.  One minute in, the grace would literally knock me off my feet and I would be in tears at the mystery of His Love and his Showoff-y-ness.  And then, for the rest of my life, I would go around saying “WOW!!!!  WOW.  HOLY TOLEDO…”


Why do you think it’s so hip to despise Christians these days?

It’s always been hip but because of 24/7 coverage and email, we don’t miss a single bizarre, ignorant or hate-filled pronouncement of fundamentalist politicians.  So it’s like having a national reality clown-show the whole nation can enjoy together (or at least 47% of us can)


Is there anything from the evangelical realm – preachers or books or music – that you enjoy?

I love SO SO much–I love all the old hymns, they can still bring tears to my eyes.   I love so many preachers–even Joyce Meyers — except when she is preaching prosperity/hate:Tea Party Bible interpretation.  My experience is that I can go to almost any church anywhere, and the Christians there and I will share such a deep love of Jesus that this will transcend (almost) any differences we may have.   It’s just when people are on the radio or Facebook or Twitter, and can’t see me, that they feel emboldened to tell me primly that I am going to rot in hell for all eternity because I am pro-choice, pro gays, pro EPA…


That segment from the book where a family tries to hold a funeral while a bullfight roars down the street?  As parables go, that just broke my heart.  What passages caught you by surprise to write?  Which parts are you most proud of?

The scene in San Francisco where I’m trying to hyper-control an outing with my friend who has Lou Gehrig s is very special to me, because it is ME in a nutshell–trying to manage and manipulate everything and everyone, making things tense and more forced….until I finally remember that God will ask if helped — HELP!  It’s usually me I need help with.  And that day, Grace arrived like the cavalry, and filled our mess, and brought us a joyful peace.   A deep gratitude for our time together.


Do you see more fiction or non-fiction writing in your future?  Any chance of Bird by Bird II?

I plan to finish a collection of new and selected pieces on Grief, and coming through, called As In Life.   Then I have no plans to write any more books for a long time.  I think Help, Thanks, Wow is my 14th book, and I am pretty exhausted, plus sick of the sound of my own voice.  Also, I have discovered Facebook and Twitter and love this form of communication.  But I will pray for knowledge of God’s will for me, and I will do whatever God wants me to.



Anne Lamott is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Grace (Eventually)Plan BTraveling Mercies, and Operating Instructions, as well two other works of nonfiction and seven novels, including the trilogy composed of Imperfect BirdsRosie, and Crooked Little Heart.  A past recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, an inductee to the California Hall of Fame, and a former columnist for Salon, she lives in Northern California.


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TNB Nonfiction features some of the web's best essays, excerpts of up-and-coming books, self-interviews, profiles, and humor from a wide range of authors. Past and future writers include Emily Rapp, Mira Bartók, Nick Flynn and Melissa Febos, among many others.  Our editorial team includes:  SETH FISCHER is the Nonfiction Editor. His work has appeared in Guernica, Joyland, Best Sex Writing, and elsewhere, and he was the first Sunday editor at The Rumpus. His nonfiction was selected as notable in The Best American Essays, and he has been awarded fellowships by Jentel, the Ucross Foundation, Lambda Literary, and elsewhere. He is also a developmental editor of nonfiction and fiction, and he teaches at Antioch University Los Angeles, UCLA-Extension, and Writing Workshops Los Angeles.

5 responses to “Grace Arrives Like the Calvary: J.M. Blaine Talks With Author Anne Lamott”

  1. Joe Daly says:

    I always suspected that
    there were Christians out there
    who were not
    and intolerant.
    It’s nice to read about another one.

    I remember a pastor once saying
    “If the only Christians you’ve met
    are condescending, judgmental and preachy,
    then you’ve never met a real Christian.
    The problem with those people
    is not that they’re too zealous;
    it’s that they’re not zealous enough.”

    Thanks for bringing this
    most excellent interview
    and book to my attention.

    • J.M. Blaine says:

      those are good words, sir.
      We are all capable of
      the best & worst,
      beauty & chaos
      & and all the grey in between.
      Annie’s not afraid to talk about the ugly stuff
      & that’s meant a lot to me.

  2. Good to see you continuing the conversation with her, JMB. Grace arriving like the calvary is the kind of phrase I could hitch a whole wagon of faith to.

    It strikes me also how her line from Job about suffering could also just as easily be a Buddhist sentiment. But in my personal waxing and waning cycles of belief, I’m always looking for these examples of the house with many mansions.

  3. J.M. Blaine says:

    I don’t know
    where I’d be if
    not for Grace.

    Or Faith.
    Or Hope
    Or Love.

    Many mansions
    & many more between

  4. […] against the front door of a brothel on Sunday morning. He also happens to be a gifted interviewer. Here he is interviewing Anne Lamott. And here he is chatting up Glenn Hughes. All this is to say that I love this guy. As far as […]

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