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OUT AND ABOUT : Authors Take Over the Universe!

October 16, 1994|MICHELLE HUNEVEN

27 September, at Duttons in Brentwood Anne Lamott signs "Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life" (Pantheon). "You're so nice to wait in line," she calls out. "You should all get checks." She turns to the cashier next to her. "Excuse me," she says, "will you please write these people some checks?"

In line are several women with babies, one of whom tells Lamott: "We never would have survived without 'Operating Instructions,' " Lamott's journal of her son Sam's first year.

When Lamott stands to read, she says, "I'll read the chapter on jealousy. It makes me look really mentally ill. Or, I could read the chapter on morality, which makes me look really moral. "

Jealousy, however, wins. "Jealousy is one of the occupational hazards of being a writer, and the most degrading," she reads. "And I, who have been the Leona Helmsley of jealousy, have come to believe that the only things that help ease or transform it are (a) getting older, (b) talking about it until the fever breaks, and (c) using it as material. . . ."

Lamott then asks for questions. The audience is quiet, shy. "Oh, I have a question," says Lamott. She raises her own hand. "How's Sam?" she asks. "Fine," she answers. "How's kindergarten?" she asks. "Fine, now that he knows what it is," she says. "He was anxious all summer, until he found out he just had to go there during the day. . . ."

When a young woman asks how to start writing, Lamott suggests starting with short assignments and letting yourself write really, "execrable" (a euphemism) first drafts. "Writing one page a day, even taking time off for holidays and PMS, you'll have 250 pages in a year."

30 September, Bodhi Tree Bookstore One would think that proof of God's existence would at least fill Dodger Stadium. But mathematical physicist Frank Tipler, who claims to have proof of God and the Resurrection, has attracted 50-odd people to the Bodhi Tree annex.

His proof, detailed in "The Physics of Immortality," (Doubleday), involves quantum cosmology, game theory, eschatological theology and many leaps in logic.

Tipler himself, a garrulous bespectacled fella in a brown suit, red tie and deep Southern accent, is clearly enjoying himself.

His gleeful didacticism stirs the crowd. Interruptions are constant. Is there free will? Are people really sophisticated computers? Tipler answers at length until time runs short and he hasn't begun to deliver the goods.

The goods, per se, are not easily summarized. One line of reasoning goes something like this: Life, which may have started from a single cell, has already engulfed the earth. Eventually, life must engulf the entire universe--become omnipresent. To do this, life must gain control over all resources--become omnipotent. Life must also increase its knowledge--become omniscient. Since omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience are the three attributes of God, do we not then have God?

1 October James McCourt, in Los Angeles for a weekend of work, answers this question: How does it feel to have his unconventional, brilliant, maximalist novel of drag queens, opera divas and AIDS, "Time Remaining," (Knopf: 1993), included in Harold Bloom's eclectic canon, along with Faulkner, Sophocles, Melville?

McCourt squares his shoulders. "Just fine."

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