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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book equivalent of a pina colada at sunset
It seems some reviewers were hoping The Writing Life would be something akin to Fiction for Dummies. Trust me, it's not. Instead, Annie Dillard, through anecdote, illustration and abundant imagination, reveals a little of the writing world that she so uniquely inhabits.

If you are new to Annie, prepare to be marvellously impressed. There are times when a single...
Published on 3 Nov 2006 by Matt Johnson

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15 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Annie Dillard: The Writing Life
If like me, you thought this title held real pragmatic promise for aspiring writers, you may be disappointed, as I was, to reach the end but feeling not much the wiser for doing so.
I had been looking for an insightful guide to the mechanics of writing and among the competition this seemed the best bet. Respecting Dillard's past work gave me some genuine reason for...
Published on 12 Dec 2003 by Ian Jupp


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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book equivalent of a pina colada at sunset, 3 Nov 2006
This review is from: The Writing Life (Paperback)
It seems some reviewers were hoping The Writing Life would be something akin to Fiction for Dummies. Trust me, it's not. Instead, Annie Dillard, through anecdote, illustration and abundant imagination, reveals a little of the writing world that she so uniquely inhabits.

If you are new to Annie, prepare to be marvellously impressed. There are times when a single Annie Dillard sentence is so beautifully constructed that you'll wonder why you should ever bother picking up a book by another author again. As a writer, she is all sweet angles and breathtaking runs, like a star striker at football. Think Pele in paragraph form.

Intended more as a discourse on writing and the creative process of the craft, this is a great book for anyone who has ever wished to pick up a pen and leave so much as a few scribbled sentences for family, friends and/or posterity. Equally, it's for everyone who just loves reading and enjoys the opportunity to witness one of our greatest living writers take her talents out for a bit of a ramble. Annie, by this bloke, is always as good as it gets.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A candid and articulate book about writing for publication, 13 Sep 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Writing Life (Paperback)
It is one thing to write a letter to a friend or jot a note to a colleague, quite another to compose a work for publication. Annie Dillard effectively captures the struggles of writing for the public, of trying to share a vision or communicate ideas through the medium of language. This book consists of numerous short vignettes to demonstrate what the writing life is like. Like many other writers, I instantly identified with a number of things Dillard struggles with and her hopes for communication. For example, I laughed when she drew an analogy between a starfish that loses an arm through autoamputation and part of a book-in-progress that seems to severe itself of its own accord. Through this and many other examples, Dillard captures what it is often like to be a writer. Some of the idiosyncracies reported are unique to Dillard's mental landscape (which, as much as I love to share it, still often strikes me as really weird), which is why I give the book four stars instead of five.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, fulfilling, but not an instruction manual, 18 Jun 2009
By 
Mr. S. D. Halliday "Assistant Professor of Ec... (Northampton, MA, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Writing Life (Paperback)
Annie Dillard, author of several fiction and non-fiction books, has been recommended to me numerous times by many authors, the first of which was Deirdre McCloskey in her Economical Writing. As with many things, intention finally met reality and I was content.

Dillard meditates on the processes of writing, doing so without sentimentality or harshness. She imparts the lore of writing, showing the toil required to obtain quality: the labour to unearth the ore, the vision to ensure its purity, the sweat of crafting and re-crafting.

The book enchanted me, it compelled me to read it. I was meant to be studying for exams or to be writing myself, but instead I began to read it. It was not difficult - I used it as a break time pleasure. The book is slim, it curves alluringly in your hand when you read it. It demands to be read. I had about ten pages to go while I was in bed reading, but I realised that in my fatigue I was missing some of the rhythms, losing the lyric in the prose. I put it aside until the next morning when I sat outside to read the last few pages in the morning sun. What a pleasure. What a joy. What a reminder of the burden and the privilege of writing.

One caveat for those who might misconstrue the title, the blurb, or the other reviews. This book is not an instruction manual. Dillard does not delineate the 'rules' of writing, or provide advice to the novice author. She documents her processes, the events that affected her writing, and the conversations that catalysed changes in her thoughts or perceptions of the world and of writing. Do not buy this book if you want a 'do's and 'don't's of writing.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WOnderful!, 22 Feb 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Writing Life (Paperback)
I have read this book at least three times now -- and will read it again yet. An inspiring and poetic piece of work. I am an author myself, and to Annie Dillard I say: Thank you!
This book, however, is not just for writers, it is for all who read. A treasure of a book.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sit back. Relax. Enjoy The Writing Life!, 14 Jun 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Writing Life (Paperback)
Annie Dillard's The Writing Life, for me, was like having a relaxing conversation with a friend about the pains and joys of writing. I identified with every sentence -- from starting over again on a writing project, to disliking the beginning of a work but loving the middle, to growing in this craft, etc... It is an addiction, and addictions are not easy to explain, so I understand the negative reviews of this book as well. Writing is an unexplainable yet enjoyable frustration. Annie Dillard's metaphores trying to explain the positive and negative aspects of writing -- from painting, to reeling in a log and fighting the forces of nature, to flying -- they are clear-cut, percise views of what writing is all about. This book is great for writers who just enjoy what writng is: annoying, aggrevating, frustrating, sole-searching, creative, self-understanding fun. Read this book. Relax. Enjoy The Writing Life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A most poetic mirror of the process of creative writing., 1 Feb 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: The Writing Life (Paperback)
This brief, beautiful confession of the pshyche of writing is both inspiring intellectually and deeply satisfying artistically. It is written with great humility, yet itself lives with the beauty of words about which it stands in awe. It is abstract and concrete, mystical and real, but always a living experience about the sublest of experiences, the creative process. This is one of those books which, having been read from the library, has to be bought so that it can stand in one's soul and breath.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Literary Jewel Box, 9 Mar 2012
This review is from: The Writing Life (Paperback)
This is best enjoyed like a literary jewel box, full of multi-faceted views and anecdotes. Annie Dillard is breathtakingly honest about her personal struggles and obsession with fiction writing. She has an inimitable style which is refreshing, witty and insightful. A kaleidoscopic perspective on the art of writing.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AMBROSIAL FEAST FOR TEACHERS OF WRITING, 22 July 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: The Writing Life (Paperback)
How did I miss this one when it first appeared? Lyrical, inspiring, full of sound advice and graspable metaphors, this book is a must on any writer/writing teacher's shelf. If you have ever tried to write something or attempted to teach someone else what writing is all about, this book will make your job easier. I was especially taken by Ms. Dillard's deftness on the subjects of audience ("Why are we reading, if not in the hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed?") and revision ("Some of the walls are bearing walls; they have to stay, or everything will fall down. Other walls can go with impunity; you can hear the difference."). And for us Dillard sycophants,what a shock to learn that Dillard wrote Pilgrim at Tinker Creek in a small, dark cubicle while subsisting on "dinner, coffee, Coke, chocolate milk and Vantage cigarettes." Way to be, Annie!
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15 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Annie Dillard: The Writing Life, 12 Dec 2003
By 
Ian Jupp (Cambridge, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Writing Life (Paperback)
If like me, you thought this title held real pragmatic promise for aspiring writers, you may be disappointed, as I was, to reach the end but feeling not much the wiser for doing so.
I had been looking for an insightful guide to the mechanics of writing and among the competition this seemed the best bet. Respecting Dillard's past work gave me some genuine reason for hope that I would not be disappointed in her approach. I was also expectant of tapping that same creative and highly metaphorical vein that runs through Dillard's prose.
Perhaps you are looking for the same river. However, one has to prospect ruthlessly to find gold near the surface in The Writing Life. Like her other works, one has to go deeper than the seam to find the gem among the ordinary grit. As far as helpful material for the writer is concerned, even the deep yielded little for me. The exception to this is, is undoubtedly Chapter 5, where she finally comes the nearest to translating her thoughts into the vernacular of the general reader by highlighting the external factors that form the writer's style and vision. Her observations and comments here do shed some light on her own inimitable way of writing and also give light into a book, that up to that point, had me groping for other 'light' relief. The rest deals more with the cause and effect of (her) writing, rather than rooting out causes and artistically penning the effects.
Despite its highly anecdotal and at times self-indulgent structure, The Writing Life does allow you to enter some of Dillard's wrestling to bring her heart to her subject matter, a task she executes consistently with vivacity and conviction. Like her other writings, it is Dillard bringing all those loose elements into a contained whole and finding her own voice to articulate the mystical process. Don't get me wrong; I admire Annie Dillard and her style. 'Pilgrim At Tinker Creek' forced me to live life, not merely exist in it and for that and her other books, I am grateful.
As an additional reader to the Dillard library I strongly recommend it. But, it is more accurate to frame it as, 'Dillard: The Writer', rather than, 'Dillard's Guide To Writing', or the title it now wears. By it on the former premise and you will discover much of the forming of Dillard and the natural rhythm that permeates her writing. By it on the later, as a pragmatic, 'how-to' and you will know how she does it, but still be left asking a lot of the fundamental questions of 'how'.
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6 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poetry is abundant, sincerity is lacking, 24 Dec 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Writing Life (Paperback)
My title just about sums it up. Annie Dillard uses very cute metaphors and word choice to convey her relationship with writing, but the whole thing fails to ring true. Her claims that she hates writing are contradicted by her sickeningly happy, cloud-borne tone; her metaphors are interesting but fall apart when examined as actual metaphors for writing.
This work seems like an author with a contract trying to fill up 100 pages with as many ways to state "Writing is hard" as she can. She succeeds in fooling many of her readers into thinking she is saying something interesting or sincere. But I read her pretentious pontifications and I'm not impressed.
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The Writing Life
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard (Paperback - 30 Sep 1990)
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