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on 30 January 2017
It may the bias of an old man, but I am amazed that this book was written by a twenty-seven year old. There is a stillness and centredness in it which I do not associate with the energy of youth. There is a contradiction in the title: classically, pilgrims move on - they are on a journey. Annie Dillard stays where she is - the whole book grows out of her year-long observations in a tiny bit of rural Virginia. The pilgrimage is an inward one as she reflects on what she observes in and around a creek that runs near her home. Occasionally she lifts her gaze to the horizon, but for the most part her attention is focussed on the small, even the minute, manifestations of life in the water, on the banks, in the bushes. And she reads scientific literature, so that her amazement about what she sees is enhanced by a deeper understanding of what is going on beyond her vision. Some of the nature writing is exquisite, some of it I passed over fairly quickly - it is a book you could dip in to if you wanted, although I found myself reading it from end to end. It must be a nightmare for a librarian to decide how to categorise this book on the shelves. Fundamentally, it is not a "nature book". Probably it would have to go under Theology. She is fascinated by the profligacy of nature; she is overwhelmed not just by the sheer number of creatures she find and their variety, but also by the exquisite and apparently unnecessary detail of, for example, a leaf or the fin of a small fish. The creator, she concludes, must be "a deranged manic-depressive with limitless capital". At the end of day, however, its is not the profligacy of nature which stays with me, but its cruelty. There are two scenarios that she returns to several times. One is of a praying mantis munching the belly of a wasp which in turn is sucking the honey out a bee during its death throws. The other is of a frog being sucked dry to the point of total dehydration by a bug which has attached itself to the unfortunate victim. She notes that ten percent of al living creatures are parasitic. What sort of Creator has given us this world? What she sees is "an assault on all human value, all hope of a reasonable god." This is not a plea for atheism but rather a challenge to comfortable Sunday School images of a benign God who has created the best of possible worlds. And there are no easy answers for those like myself who hold on to a faith perspective on the big questions of life. I finished the book feeling quite overwhelmed by the sheer wonder of our world - and feeling rather more wary of the God I worship. He's not to be messed with.
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on 12 July 1999
I first read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek as an undergraduate at Southwest Missouri State University, in an exposition class. I loved it then and I love it now. I am currently taking a graduate seminar on approaches to teaching literature and have been given the opportunity to design my "dream course." Annie Dillard's Pulitzer Prize-winning literary journey is at the top of my list. I am disappointed to read the few comments from readers who didn't enjoy this book--I suspect they have not taken the time to fully explore Dillard's vision. The work is rich with details that are not just there for the sake of description. It is a carefully crafted prose narrative that delves into theology, existentialism, transcendentalism, and natural history, addressing the relationship between man and God. I would recommend reading Linda L. Smith's book, entitled Annie Dillard (one of Twayne's United States Authors series), for an enlightening analysis of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and other works by the author. If you are willing to open your eyes and mind wide enough, you will surely discover Pilgrim at Tinker Creek's treasures.
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on 12 March 1999
I read this book while a fundamentalist Christian in seminary studying for the ministy. It literally changed the direction of my life. It was the language that at first seduced me; not a page is wasted, not a word out of place, not a throw-away metaphor. It sings with a beauty and sense of utter awe that I have never witnessed in another writer. Dillard taught me to trust my own inner voice, to see the world with eyes that were fully open. It started me on a long path that continues to this day, thinking for myself, observing and embracing the small everyday currents that resonate so deep with my spirit. Annie is a kindred soul, a witness to the utter mystery and joy of a life lived with eyes and heart attuned to the vibrant exuberance of the spirit. I have given hardback copies of Pilgrim to many fellow pilgrims and have made rereading it a yearly spiritual service. This is must reading for all serious seekers after beauty, truth, and a spiritual path that does not deny the mysteries of life. Annie is a fellow pilgrim who does not fail to ask the difficult questions, the felicity and power of her prose sings with an authenticity that is impossible to deny. This is one of the most important books of the later 20th century and I recommend this book to all seekers after beauty and spiritual refreshment.
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on 1 April 1999
This book has become a comfort book for me, espcially since I'm originally from southwest VA, where Dillard wrote Pilgrim. I'm in NY at school now and reading it is cathartic in a way...it takes me home.
But over and above that, it's a meditation on the Divine and on Nature and how the two relate that still resonates deeply with me. I have yet to find "the tree with the lights in it," which constitutes a large part of her discussion of Seeing. But the book itself is like a tree with the lights in it, at times. The lights of Divine inspiration.
Read this book slowly and let it bring the broken parts of you back together...you won't regret it.
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on 30 April 1997
This book is one of the best I have ever read! It is thought provoking and wonderfully written. It's beautiful imagery takes you on a leave of your own world. It touches a place hidden in most people and lets you feel as if you were actually at Tinker Creek.
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on 20 January 1998
This book had a point, but in getting to that point, tanget upon tangent, some gruesome to say the least, must be followed. It took me, in some parts 1/2 hour to read, what in another book would take 10 minutes, going over it again and again to try and find the meaning of the jumble of words set forth before me.
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on 1 March 2015
Wonderful study of nature and nature observation and individual engaged in nature observation. Beautiful style of writing, you are always there with the author, seeing what she sees, hearing what she hears and understanding her line of thinking. Following her mental acrobatics sometimes feels like watching swallows dancing in the summer wind...beautifully swift and totally fascinating. A study in mindfulness when that term wasn't in fashion yet.
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on 12 February 2017
This book is an invitation to recognise and enjoy the wonderfully rich variety of life, colour and energy which exists all around us at each minute of the day if only we learn how to notice.
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on 18 November 2017
Read it and ordered it twice more for my mother and sister in law! Its lovely. Something to read and think about and then read again.
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on 5 August 2011
Annie Dillard's thoughtful and meditative book is of course a renowned classic of nature writing, but as this new edition has not yet received a review I thought I would have a go. What makes this book stand apart from much nature writing is its sense of intimacy. For much of the book she focuses on the small things of life and examines them with a clear-eyed and unflinching gaze. I first read this book when I was about 14 or 15, and its sense of trying to search for some kind of meaning in the world around us resonated strongly with me at that age. As children we are fully open to the small mysteries of life, to the comings and goings of the bugs and the wild flowers, but as we get older our focus changes, and we become more preoccupied with the bigger picture. Dillard retains that sense of childlike wonder at the world, and reminds us of what we have lost.
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