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Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith (2005)

by Anne Lamott

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,256465,686 (3.93)89
"The world is a more difficult place to live in than it was when Anne Lamott's runaway bestseller "Traveling mercies" was published six years ago. There's the big picture, in which terrorism and war have become the new normal, George W. Bush is president, and environmental devastation looms ever closer. And there are greater personal demands on Lamott's faith as well: turning fifty, her mother's Alzheimer's, her son Sam's adolescence, and the passing of friends and time. Fortunately for those of us who are anxious about the state of the world, whose parents are also aging and dying, whose children are growing harder to recognize as they enter their teenage years, Plan B offers hope through the panic and despair. With her trademark humor, wisdom, and honesty, Lamott tells us stories of daily life-- shopping at the supermarket on her birthday and winning a free ham she doesn't want ; skiing with a dying friend who teaches her to fall ; celebrating Thanksgiving with Sam and his dad ; attending protest rallies. She watches the seasons come and go, and shares with us the comfort and insights that she draws from life around her even as she continues to panic and despair-- and also to struggle, as all of us must, to make the world a safer, and more loving, place to live" -- container.… (more)
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Since Anne Lamott is a liberal Christian, she makes a few (kinda boring) references to the Republican President of the time, who was then at war in the Middle East. I would not have written these, especially now, but I’d like to explain why she did; it has to do with the fact that she’s a liberal Christian in a world that often says that conservatives are Christian and Christians are conservatives—so she feels the need to constantly fight back with, Jesus yes, GOP no.

There are people who think that liberal Christians are less faithful than conservative ones; some Protestants say you can pick any church, but only one that is “solid”, or conservative. Ultimately I think that who is faithful is largely a matter of the individual, as two people can say the same things, (or even be in the same place, one willingly—faithfully or Pharisaically—another unwillingly, or at least diplomatically), and mean different things, especially in how they live their lives…. although I wouldn’t go so far as to say that all churches are equally faithful or that it makes little difference what they do. (I wonder if conservatives have a preference, whether they prefer being told, I have some things in common with you but you are largely wrong, or, It makes little difference what you do.)

But anyway, it is not I think necessarily true that liberal Christians are less faithful, just because liberal pundits are less likely to hold the Bible in one hand when they are waving the bloody shirt (calling for blood and battle). Actually, I think that this is what makes liberal Christians possibly more faithful. If you’re a liberal, you can get liberal culture from the television or university, or therapy, and none of those places would demand that you pretend to be a Christian if you’re not. But if you’re a conservative and you’re not rich, you’ve got Fox News and church, which you can consume until you start to think that they’re the same thing, and usually reaching for a Republican’s bloody shirt involves pretending to be a Christian, even if you’re not. So liberal Christians are following Jesus in spite of their friends, and conservative Christians are following Jesus because of their friends, who might either be Christians or conservative atheists like Jordan Peterson.

Neither situation is really ideal, (surprise surprise, earthling), but I’d try to avoid making assumptions. To be fair though, it is possible to be a decent person and a Christian who does seem country or whatever, and despite the things that go with country culture it’s still preferable to some of the other things that are possible, and more truly liberal to make that plain.

…. There’s a passage in “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” where the king’s children are trying to stage a coup in a lost province; somebody arranged for sympathetic townspeople to cheer the march, and at first only these people who knew what was happening and wanted it to happen are there, but soon the people think there’s a parade on so everybody joins in, including the Top40 people who are just there to see what the town is up to. I think that this passage refers to the church, and if in one age there are many fellow travelers and the church is influential and blue laws are passed and there’s a blue laws culture where it’s easy for the half-indifferent to have the rudiments of a spiritual practice without even realizing really or choosing consciously, there’s certainly something to be said for that, and something is avoided, but if in another age there are few onlookers and no blue laws culture, and the only people cheering the king are the Pharisees, fanatics, and the fools for holy love, then, he’ll work with that too. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that what happens to the onlookers doesn’t matter or that it’s a waste of time trying to save 50th percentile people, or that we should do absolutely nothing as a matter of principle to stop nervous radio music and advertising from driving people mad. But there is a peculiar temptation that comes from that sort of power, and many people who think that they’re very close to the king aren’t good at handling it.

That is, Christian parents who are liberal still don’t want their kids to curse them out and run around after hours, and it’s not helpful to say that they’re not faithful because they don’t have an Enemies List like Nixon, right.

…. And the other thing is that you have to love your idiot rivals; you’re asking the nervous pop music guy, the idiot rival you face in the pop culture battles, to trust you and to trust his family and people who represent the church for him and to trust these books that he’s not going to read, right; not everybody reads deep theology, some people are going to either decide to trust it or not based on other things, and if his dad treats his flaming racist mom like property and they’re both big Pharisees, trust is out the window. Say goodbye to the domestic blue laws culture and hello to simmering civil war.

…. But I like the treatment she does of loving your enemies in chapter 17, because it’s harder to live without that, and for what, really. The way I take it is, if you have somebody ranting in your head and being angry and outrageous, just exaggerate it, loosen your grip, find it funny, really, and it is. Anger is funny.

Mr Downfall: Just answer me this, is the Bible the word of God or not?

Burgdorf: Well it is but I think we can still love the Jews and shit sir.

Mr Downfall: And tell me why the fuck would I want to do that?

Burgdorf: It’s the path of love; just be nice.

Mr Downfall: It’s hard for me to be nice because I’m fucking Hitler. /throws the pencil/ And so are you! You tell me to love, while your face is contorted with wrath and hate!

I think that the look on Burgdorf’s face as you have him say “just be nice” would be perfect, you know.

Gerda Christian: *sobbing*
Eva: If only they loved each other.

Right?

Mr Downfall: I tell you guys what, let’s all go to one last Wagner opera before we lose the war.
Burgdorf: What fucking scene are we fucking with now?
Mr Downfall: I tried to be nice but you ruined it! You stupid people always ruin things for me! You always do! You always do!
Goebbels: Hitler’s right. People can be very stupid, even here in Germany, with the highest encyclopedia-per-person ratio in the world.
Krebs: You know, I never thought about it, like that—
Burgdorf: I bet you never think about anything, loser!
Mr Downfall: If there’s a loser here, it’s you!
Mohammed: Keitel, Jodl, Krebs, and Burgdorf, surely they are among the losers. God will surely punish them, on a fateful day.
Mr Downfall: What are you, an immigrant! I fucking hate immigrants!
Mohammed: I am going to a place which is a garden, beneath which rivers flow.
Burgdorf: I’m going to get a drink. You guys stay here and talk to Hitler.
Mr Downfall: I’m not done with you yet!
Burgdorf: Yeah ok.

(later)
Speer: You know, I don’t get most of the actor and actress references, and I feel like if I try to look them up online it won’t really give me the sense of it. Like if something were “Dickensian”, or “Tolstoyan” it would take you hundreds of pages of reading to get the sense of it.
Mr Downfall: Makes you feel stupid, right? And there’s never enough time.
Speer: Yeah. Say, you wanna go out for a few drinks with Krebs and Burgdorf later?
Mr Downfall: No. I have a lot of theology homework I have to finish before we lose the war.
Speer: Well I wouldn’t want to jeopardize your salvation.
Mr Downfall: If these reports from the Eastern Front are right, then I am no hero for Odin!
Speer: See you later Hitler.
Mr Downfall: Later, alligator.

Woke Liberal: I don’t like you.
Speer: Hey, you recognize me; I’m the Nazi who said sorry, author of , “So, So Sorry Guys”, and “That One’s On Me”, which were New York Times bestsellers. Look, there’s a Deepak Chopra quote on the front. Have you been to ‘the Nazi who said sorry dot com’?

Woke Liberal Two: You we’re supposed to kill him, not start reading his book!
Woke Liberal: But he’s so nice in person.

Woke Liberal Two: Hey Malcolm.
X: Hey Mike.
Whatcha doin
Reading a book
What’s it about
Gandhi
What happened to him
His own people killed him. He loved the whole world, so they thought he was a traitor.
A traitor huh.
Yeah, say you don’t look so good. You eat something funny?
Maybe I said something funny.
Ah, I know about that. It’s like that song, Everything comes back to you. Let me tell you something, I didn’t tell you, the first time around…. Everything comes back to you. Famous cracker sings it, they play it on the radio.
You’re something else. You know that.
I’m the unknown. That’s why they call me X.

Very X-y, right.
  goosecap | Jul 14, 2021 |
As Anne Lamott knows, the world is a dangerous place. Terrorism and war have become the new normal. Environmental devastation looms even closer. And there are personal demands on her faith as well: getting older; her mother's Alzheimer's; her son's adolescence; and the passing of friends and time.

Fortunately for those of us who are anxious about the state of the world, whose parents are also aging and dying, whose children are growing harder to recognize as they become teenagers, Plan B offers hope that we’re not alone in the midst of despair. It shares with us Lamott's ability to comfort and to make us laugh despite the grim realities.

Anne Lamott is one of our most beloved writers, and Plan B is a book more necessary now than ever. It is further evidence that, as The New Yorker has written, "Anne Lamott is a cause for celebration."
  PSZC | May 20, 2019 |
I read this while babysitting my grandchildren for a week. Ms. Lamott's eloquent honesty on living with children was balm in the evening of the day. The column format (each chapter, I assume, was a previous column in some online form) was fine for this kind of intermittent reading. There are some hilarious gems on weddings and funerals and patchwork families. I wrote notes to myself of the advice which felt like a girlfriend had emailed me when I was desperate: "Change the way you treat people to change the way you feel" (p.143) and "Hope is the cousin to grief" (p.238).

Thank you, Anne, for sharing yourself with so much hope. I am grateful. ( )
1 vote MaryHeleneMele | May 6, 2019 |
I love Anne Lamott! Nothing else needs saying. ( )
  LouisaK | Feb 2, 2016 |
I love Anne Lamott! Nothing else needs saying. ( )
  LouisaK | Feb 2, 2016 |
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Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Monet Refuses The Operation

Doctor, you say there are no halos

around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don't see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolve
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don't know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.
---Lisel Mueller
Dedication
For Rory
First words
On my forth-ninth birthday, I decided that all of life was hopeless, and I would eat myself to death.
Quotations
"The problem with God–or at any rate, one of the to five most annoying things about God–is that He or She rarely answers right away. It can take days, weeks. Some people seem to understand this–that life and change take time... I, on the other hand, am an instant-message type."
"When you pray, you are not starting the conversation from scratch, just remembering to plug back into a conversation that's always in progress."
"If you haven't already, you will lose someone you can't live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and you never completely get over the loss of a deeply beloved person. But this is also good news. The person lives forever, in your broken heart that doesn't seal back up. And you come through, and you learn to dance with the banged-up heart. You dance to the absurdities of life; you dance to the minuet of old friendship."
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
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Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

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"The world is a more difficult place to live in than it was when Anne Lamott's runaway bestseller "Traveling mercies" was published six years ago. There's the big picture, in which terrorism and war have become the new normal, George W. Bush is president, and environmental devastation looms ever closer. And there are greater personal demands on Lamott's faith as well: turning fifty, her mother's Alzheimer's, her son Sam's adolescence, and the passing of friends and time. Fortunately for those of us who are anxious about the state of the world, whose parents are also aging and dying, whose children are growing harder to recognize as they enter their teenage years, Plan B offers hope through the panic and despair. With her trademark humor, wisdom, and honesty, Lamott tells us stories of daily life-- shopping at the supermarket on her birthday and winning a free ham she doesn't want ; skiing with a dying friend who teaches her to fall ; celebrating Thanksgiving with Sam and his dad ; attending protest rallies. She watches the seasons come and go, and shares with us the comfort and insights that she draws from life around her even as she continues to panic and despair-- and also to struggle, as all of us must, to make the world a safer, and more loving, place to live" -- container.

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