Reader reviews for Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Good
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Plodding - yes. Stream of consciousness - yes. Artful - yes. It caused me to pause on a turn of phrase and I never pause, I gulp, I slurp, I glean, I devour but never pause and never reverse. I found myself walking the paths of Tinker Creek, thinking the thoughts that Dillard recorded in this memoir.
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I expected a lot from this book as it seems to be regarded as a 'nature writing' classic. I found the writing varied, sometimes the author absorbed me with her observations and stories and at other times the book seemed erratic and the writing jarred with me. On one or two occasions I found the writing beautiful. However I decided that overall it was too irritating to continue with so I gave up about halfway through.
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It is more than an exercise in note-taking and observation to record evidence of such present moments as happen when eyes are open and time is abundant. Annie Dillard tells the story of built moments, crafted from the accidents of pond life and sunshine and floods. She would be a hoarder of facts but for her willingness to share them in aid of curiosity and storytelling. And it is her storytelling that weaves as novelists do and allows her readers almost to forget that what she tells you is not simply fact, it is truth.I have relished this book as one would a box of fine chocolates or bottle of delicious tequila and was equally distressed for it to end. It is not for everyone, but for those who can fall into the world as seen through the eyes of Ms. Dillard, it is a delight and a wonder.
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The first thing that grabbed my attention as I began reading this book is the loveliness of its prose. The sentences are long and vivid and full of color. After forty or so pages, the line between colorful and purple begins to blur. Throughout the books, there are lines, or even a whole page, that shines. The sentiment and the language converge and deliver some powerful declaration, or pose excellent some cosmic query. However, the book slogs after awhile. I think you must go into Tinker Creek expecting highly self-referential field notes on wildlife, complimented by quotations and views Dillard uncovers in whatever she is reading at the time of such observations, and peppered with Biblical allusions. Dillard isn't necessarily preachy here, the allusions fit nicely enough within the wonder of her setting, but they sometimes feel a bit forced rather natural, as though she had to meet some quota on biblical references. At her best, Dillard shows us the majesty of nature through her eyes, all at once violent and beautiful. Despite this, I was frequently bored with her descriptions. It all began to seem too familiar. A uniquely presented work, but I suppose I'd be more apt to return to Barry Lopez if I wanted to run about the wild and winged things of the Earth.
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Listening to the audio version of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is like having a lovely conversation with Annie Dillard. She meanders through whatever subject crosses her mnds, exclaiming over muskrats, frogs, and praying mantis. She wonders about the meaning of the things she encounters on her walks along Tinker Creek and then she forgets about meaning and just admires the beauty of it all. Her prose is gorgeous, more poetry then mere nonfiction writing. She's young, and it shows in her exuberant sometimes overly gushing enthusiasm. Her musings can be random and seem disconnected, but are more often charming and conversational. I enjoyed this chance to get to know Annie Dillard and the landscape she loved. I listened to this book on audio read by Tavia Gilbert. She does a fantastic job of capturing the energy, enthusiasm, and wonder of Annie's observations.
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This was a dense book that Karen chose for our book discussion group. Dillard lives beside Tinker Creek in Virginia and records nature and her interpretation of it in an extremely detailed fashion. She purposely keeps herself and her feelings out of the writing. One story that is rather gruesome seems to become a metaphor - she mentions it several times in the book. Once she was walking beside the creek and saw a small green frog. He didn't move as she approached. She watched as his eyes went lifeless and then his skin floated away. A giant water bug had sucked his guts out.I enjoyed her chapter on seeing and coincidentally read it in March on a plane to Florida. Dillard encourages us to look deeper and deeper, closer and closer into things, to keep our eyes open and to look at the minutia. She scooped water out of the creek and brought it home. Silt settled to the bottom and then she took a drop out and looked at it under a microscope to examine the amoeba. Interesting facts from the book - spring moves northward at the rate of 16 miles per day. A big elm in a single season can make six million leaves.
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While I really admired Annie Dillard's pure rapture for the natural world, I found the "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" somewhat tedious. Dillard really knows how put together an overwrought scene... absolutely flogging and interesting moment to death.There are lots of interesting tidbits about the natural world scattered throughout the book, but it can be tough to make it through the passages in between them. I liked that the book focused not only on the beauty of nature, but its cruelty and violence too.Overall, I found it an interesting musing, but hard to get through due to the way it was written.
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I remember reading this book for the first time. I found it extremely obscure but fell at once deeply in love with it . Within days I read it a second time; a third time, and then I started to see some connections. Nowadays, "Tinker Creek" is the best and most intimate friend in my library.In this book, the writer succesfully conveys the awe she feels when confronted with the duality of beauty and horror which are part of everyday life of the creatures in the woods and streams of a valley in the mountains of Virginia.This is as much a book of sound mysticism as of nature, written in poetical style. If these three elements are not alien to you, chances are that you might like it very much.
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I always loved nature, but annie dillard taught me how to write about it. Though Edward Abby was kind to admit she filled Thoreau's shoes better than any other nature writer, he was wrong to complain about her overuse of the G-word (we could complain about his pissing too much), for English happens to lack ways to express emotion grammatically (like the suffixes in Japanese and Korean) and, thus, has no choice but to exclaim. And exclamations mean God or some dumb holy mackeral must be dragged in willy-nilly. It can't be helped.
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