It's been over a decade since I read Operating Instructions, so I can't really weigh in on the comparison. I remember OI really blowing me away, which this one did not, but I also think I was somewhat easier to impress with books back then. At any rate, this was a good book to read as I prepare for a new baby in my own life, especially because it gave me some good insight into the "grandmother" and "mother-in-law" perspective. I think Lamott presumed WAY too much control over her son and his girlfriend's choices when it came to their child, and I hope she didn't come across quite so controlling in real life as she does in the "privacy" of her journal (that she knew would be published.) Grandparents in the delivery room, her thinking she had any say over where the baby would be baptized, etc., all went way too far in my opinion. Although her son was young when his child was born, in some ways that might be all the more reason to back off and make sure he and his partner could find their own way.
At the same time, one can hardly hold someone's feelings against them, and I try not to judge memoir by the foibles or personality of the author unless she is super immoral or obnoxious, and Lamott does not rise to that level -- she is just letting her weakness and her humanity show. I love reading published journals, and this one may have been slightly self-conscious because she had a contract for it as she was writing it, but it held my interest nonetheless and also reminded me to try to be a better journaler myself.
Warm, wonderful and witty advice on writing. There were times when the humour was too obviously contrived, but as Lamott explains, humour was her defence mechanism in childhood. On the whole a book every writer should read for its honest look at the writing profession. Even as an experienced author, the emptiness of the blank page had almost overwhelmed me - after reading Bird by Bird I'm fired up with enthusiam again.
It only took me reading about the first five pages, the first five pages of the introduction, I might add, to know my relationship with this book was going to be of the love/hate variety. With a subtitle like, Some Instructions on Writing and Life how could it not be?
I've been writing since I was young. I studied creative writing at university, took every creative writing class I could in middle school and high school, and have started working on two projects I hope will be books one day as of writing this review. I have also been in a serious writing dry spell the last, oh say, several months to a year.
I brought Bird by Bird with me all the way to New Zealand with the intention of reading it in order to reinvigorate my writer's spirt, which would then allow me to jump back into my writing while I'm living here in this amazing, beautiful, laid back place that's just brimming with inspiration. And it has certainly reinvigorated me, but in both good ways and bad.
Anne Lamott does a very good job of delivering her writerly advice in easy, understandable terms with the right amount of humor mixed in. The book is light-hearted at the same time it is poignant and a little soul-crushing. Many of the bigger concepts and lessons she is describing in the book I've heard one hundred and one times throughout my own writing career (if you want to call it that). But another thing I know is that it never hurts, nay, it is probably a good thing to be constantly reminded of these facts, these rather unfortunate truths of being a writer.
I don't have a vast collection of writer friends like Lamott seems to have. So I don't have a whole lot of people to turn to in my times of writerly angst. But having this book on my shelf (now that I've actually read it and know all the comforting and not so comforting words it holds) feels like I've got some sort of paperback therapist I can call upon to talk me down in times of trouble.
I would recommend this book to new writers and veteran writers alike. Put it on your shelf next to things like Stephen King's On Writing and The Elements of Style.