During college I took an expository writing class, and a big part of the class was commenting on the writing of others. One day a classmate was writing about life on a farm, describing the “sweet smell of silage.” I raised my hand to protest the collocation of the words “sweet” and “silage.” The comparison just didn’t work for me.

This week I found a comparison that is much more offensive. I got a copy of Anne Lamott’s Grace (Eventually) from the library, and I’ve been voraciously reading it, hoping to find some of the wit and gravity that I felt while reading Traveling Mercies. Sadly, it has none. And the bit I read two nights ago was just horrible. Just one particular phrase really.

She describes a cab ride from SFO to her home in Marin. I was hopeful about the section because I actually know the sections of San Francisco she’s describing. Her cabbie tells her he’s taking a “short cut” and she starts to freak out. He eventually gets very lost in a dark part of town, and Anne thinks she’s about to be murdered or something worse, and actually contemplates jumping from the moving vehicle.

She asks him for his cell phone (she didn’t have hers), and decides that if he gives it to her, she won’t have to jump out of the vehicle. If he doesn’t, she will have to jump out of the car. Then, this phrase: “But I just sat tight; so tight; tight as a sphincter.”

That may be unforgivable. It’s right up there with one of my kids comparing Martin Luther King, Jr. with a low-profile, non-violent sinner Jesus.


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