Monday, May 22, 2006

Is it possible that Anne Lamott could suck even more than Nora Ephron does?

This is unbelieveable.

It's not even that she slaps her teenage son.

I got slapped quite a few times as a kid, but my mother never wrote about her difficulties with me in a national magazine. Thank God.

I realize I do write about my family and husband and friends a fair amount and I take great effort to not be self-indulgent and lame about it. (My brothers are kind of an exception. But I figure once one hits the sex offender registry, nothing on the Chaliceblog is going to make one's reputation worse.)

I don't have kids, but the most insulting thing I've written about my mother is that she's kind of distant. And I told her about it. She shrugged.

In the essay, Lamott knowingly or not conveys a freakish, controlling nature and many other unattractive qualities.

If I ever start to sound like this, please tell me.

I can accept that the average person doesn't get how words (especially words spoken in front of other people, or in this case written in a national online magazine) can suck a lot more than being physically attacked.

But Lamott is a writer. She's supposed to know this stuff. Her essay is a lot more troubling than her tendency to slap people.

Nora Ephron sucks. But Anne Lamott may actually be worse.



PeaceBang said...

Anne Lamott is dead to me now. I left a long, scathing letter to add to the other 250 or so that people are submitting. It's quite a little maelstrom over there.

What a despicable essay. She has been exploiting her son for literary fame since he was born. Now that he's 17, you would think she might have a shred of respect for his privacy, but the woman is an absolutely shameless narcissist.

How gross. My sympathies are with Sam, and as you say, it has nothing to do with her slapping him or them having a fight. It has to do with her rampant ego and violation of her son's privacy.

Yuck. I need a bleach shower after reading that.

LaReinaCobre said...

I've been hearing this woman's name a lot in the last month. I think she was even in Portland recently and gave a reading at the church I attend (my church has a very large sanctuary and frequently hosts book readings and other programs).

I read the article, and it seemed honest. I didn't get much out of it, as I'm not a parent and I'm not 17 years old. How does how her son feel about her writing about him - has he ever spoken about it? Has she asked him for his permission?

Psyton said...

I don't see the root of the vitriol here.... Write what you know, and she knows her son...

Thus, she is wont to write about how the things he does impacts her emotionally. How the rebelliousness of driving a car like a jackass, and otherwise being a little jackass (as is a 17 year old's wont) makes her feel and throws her for a loop. I don't think it's exploitative or narcisissistic as much as it is demonstrative of what someone can expect from a male child at various stages in his developing life.

To be exploitative, Anne would have to deliberately bait her son into reacting ways that she thought would be interesting for her column... To be narcissistic, Anne Lammott would have to try and make herself look good. She doesn't do either... she looks like the crazy, domineering mom we all had when we were 17, and I imagine she will look like a saint come 20-something when Sam realized the amount of shit he put her through... Much like I do with my mom.

Sorry PB and CC... but my impression is that your dislike for Anne Lammott is turning into a need to persecute her. If you don't like what she has to say and think she is so despicable, then kindly stop reading her articles and exposing us to the bitchy fallout that results from the nuclear disagreement...

Otherwise, being someone who was a 17-year-old son myself at one point... I thought her article was brilliant.

Chalicechick said...

I'm sure it is honest. I'm sure if I had a teenage son, I would get angry at him.

I'm not sure if I would compare him to Jeffrey Dahmer.

I KNOW I wouldn't do it in a national magazine.


Paul Wilczynski said...

I can't speak to Anne Lamott's history of writing about her son, if he's being exploited, or the size of her ego.

But what her article conveyed to me was the overwhelming helplessness a parent can feel when his/her child is acting in dangerous or inappropriate ways.

Of course she shouldn't have slapped her son. She knows that only too well. Perhaps if I had been reading her essays for as long as some other people, I'd detest her too. But I haven't. All I can feel is a litle understanding of how she must be feeling.

Chalicechick said...

Luckily, Psyton, your mother never put your family drama in front of the entire country.

I probably am done with her now. I really like some of her novels, she's a good writer, but her expolitation of her kids is just yucky.


Psyton said...

I don't feel it's exploitative! She's not forcing him to do anything stupid or silly for laughs... She is merely chronicling her feelings in regard to how her son acts and treats her.

One time, Dave Barry wrote about driving the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile to his Son's school to pick him up. Complete with a chronology of his son's embarrased reaction, right down to the blushing and the walking swiftly away hoping nobody was looking. It was hilarious... and everyone sort of felt bad for the kid, but everyone also had a father who did crazy stuff and embarassed them occasionally and laughed at the shared indignity of parenting. I mean, every comic has talked about their parents or their kids if they've got 'em... every blogger talks about the people they know and what they did... and basically I feel like you're trying to fault Anne Lammott because it appears her life-blogging editorial peices just-so-happen to bring her income.

For the record, my Mom talks about me to my friends all the time... about the same amount as she fights with my dad in front of my friends all the time. She or my dad will sometimes turn around and get people to weigh in on points much to my mortification... I still love her dearly, and if she kicked up a blog talking about some of the nastier fights I had with her when I was a troubled teenager, or how scared she must have been when I admitted I careened a 1988 camry through a field because I was racing a friend on twisty back-roads... I wouldn't fault her for it. In fact, I'd probably become a commenter and weigh in with my POV... and I expect Sam will write a few interesting books himself.

Chalicechick said...

If you, as an adult, want to make that choice, great.

But Sam is her kid, and her first priority should be doing what's best for him, not making the whole world sympathise with her and laud her for her "honesty."

I am so very fond of your mom and can't even imagine her behaving this way.

When Dave Barry used his kid's embarassment for cheap laughs was bad enough. The weiner mobile is one thing, her hateful tone is another.

Honestly, aren't the teenage years hard enough?


Psyton said...

Honestly, aren't the teenage years harder for the parents?

Sam is her kid, and in doing what is best for him ("where ya been?" "who were ya with?" "why did the Honda's tire blow out!?" "Don't think I don't see you speeding off the second you get around that curve!" "no, clean the car right this time, I'm sick of your shit!") he acts like a little troll and drives her batshit insane. She knows what is best for him, but at the same time she is trying to allow him the independance and freedom to start forming a self-identity, but still using as much of her "this is my house, and I'm paying for the insurance on your car" clout to keep him from doing the plain-stupid rebellious things for rebellions sake. She has to stomach all of the "I so hate you right now" rhetoric to get the point accross that she has been around the world a lot longer and was a teenager once herself without sounding patronizing or controlling.

I think this is ten times better than Anne Lammott just going off and doing her writing thing while the kid gets raised by the butler... It's showing that there is a desperate, violent humanity in all the stages of raising a child who has almost cruelly been put under your protection but at the same time is an ever-more-independant person with it's own mind and it's own mobility... and I'm still not convinced that she is being exploitative or otherwise a bad mom when she happens to use her powerful prose to encapsulate the feelings and the absurdity of the situations. I don't think it's this hateful tone as much as an exasperated and surfeited tone.

It's not her going "you ruined my life" as much as it is "can't you see I'm just trying to do my best to ensure you don't ruin yours?"

carolinagirl79 said...

It is wrong,
to make a living off of violating your children's privacy.

Although it doesn't seem to bother Dooce.

Chalicechick said...


I think we've hit the "agree-to-disagree" point.


I am no Dooce fan either. I really don't understand her appeal.


dizzy von damn! said...

first let me say that i think anne lamott writes too much about her son and that it makes me doubt her true depth as a writer.


what she writes is her truth of the situation, and just because other people may see it differently doesn't mean she has no right to share it.

nor do we know that she has not received her son's permission to write about their life together. maybe someday we will read his truth of it.

she's simply using an experience from her own life to explore the meaning of relationships. i think it's brave of her to write so truthfully of her struggle to be a good parent, and that if more parents were honest about how truly difficult it is she wouldn't seem so crazy.

or maybe she would, but it wouldn't be because she wants her son to wash the car.

Chalicechick said...

As I put in my follow-up post to this, Anne has said herself in interviews that her son does not want her writing about him.

If she feels so passionately about the importance of writing this stuff, why doesn't she write it, then wait until he is a legal adult, THEN ask if she can publish it?

Parenting won't change between now and the time the kid turns 25. Her words would still be relevant.

But Sam would at least have the chance to consent as an adult who understands the impact her words could have on his life given that any fool with Google will be able to find them.


PeaceBang said...

I used to adore her, but what was once a fresh, original, brave and irreverent voice has now become a simpering, one-dimensional caricature.

Of COURSE it's exploiting your son when you take a recent, highly charged episode and use it as fodder for a paying writing job! There's a world of difference between that (her usual "I'm Annie Lamott and you'll just love me for my BRUTAL SELF-DEPRECATING HONESTY. Won't you? Won't you?") and writing thoughtfully ... LATER, at an appropriate time, about the situation.

Sam is a teenager. I don't remember who said he seemed like bad news but ... get real! This has nothing to do with how bad he is. You're blaming the victim.

Anne is desperate to be loved. She's less a writer nowadays than she is a personality. I can't believe that she has so little integrity as an artist and as a parent as to keep writing about Sam when she has publicly admitted he doesn't want her to.

Hack. Hack. Hack. And yes, a true narcissist. Read her other works. Everything is about her. Absolutely everything goes back to ANNE. It used to be quirky, charming and forgiveable. Now it's out of control and disgraceful.

Anonymous said...

I would be surprised to learn that any of the bloggers who viciously attacked Anne Lamott had teenagers. To those of you who say something along the lines of, "Well, I currently have a toddler and I know I will NEVER be that controlling when I have a teenager," I would respond, "Well, NEVER is a long time." Just wait and see, wait and see. And to those of you who attacked Anne Lamott and have teenagers and have NEVER once behaved badly as a result of a confrontation with a teenager, I would ask that you kindly turn your judgemental screed into a helpful parenting manual for the rest of us troglodytes who are doing the best we can to raise our teenagers but who can't seem to rise to the level of your parental grace. Seriously, if anyone has perfected a parenting style for raising a perfectly happy teenager, I would be very interested in learning about it. But for now, I must get back to banging my head against the refrigerator door - I found it to be more productive than reasoning with my teenager.

Chalicechick said...


Yet you didn't put your teenager's name here where everyone could see it?

Why not?

Because it would be humiliating for him/her?

Because it would follow him/her throughout her life job interviewers and potential dates found it?

Because it would be an invasion of his/her privacy?

Whatever your reason, you have ALREADY shown that you are a better, more throughtful parent than Anne.

who fully expects that you will never come back and see that, but for what it's worth...