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Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is the story of a dramatic year in Virginia's Blue Ridge valley. Annie Dillard sets out to see what she can see. What she sees are astonishing incidents of "mystery, death, beauty, violence."

Topics: Virginia, Appalachia, Essays, Creative Nonfiction, Mystical, Lyrical, The Environment, Spirituality , Writing, The Outdoors, and Transcendentalism

Published: HarperCollins on Oct 13, 2009
ISBN: 9780061847806
List price: $9.99
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Something to reread when you are losing touchread more
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This book is a beautiful essay on the joy and wonder of seeing Nature. I just love this book. Annie Dillard writes about the mystical beauty and mystery of nature.read more
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"I was still ringing. I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck." For me, this quote captures both the pilgrim spirit and the poetic beauty of this collection of interwoven essays. Dillard's prose is exquisite. Her fascination with the natural world, freshly revealed on every page, is thoroughly contagious.read more
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I want to like Annie Dillard, I really do. I think the world is a better place because Annie Dillard thinks and writes as she does. But, the bugs. Lots and lots of looking at, thinking about, and describing bugs. Some other creatures too, both larger and smaller than bugs, but mostly bugs. As much as I appreciate the conclusions Dillard draws about the natural world and the nature of God, her minute observations about critters and plants could barely hold my attention. I took pious pleasure in finishing the book, like I had done something that, while a little boring, had it’s interesting moments and made me a better person – kind of like going to church.read more
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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.read more
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I needed to read a book like this right now. Dillard appreciates things within nature like a small child or a born-blind person with new sight.. noticing things down to the tiniest detail. (Literally -- she occasionally busts out a microscope and takes a gander at pond scum.) I only wish I was like that. I learned a ton of stunning nature based facts. And like I said, I really needed to read something nature based and appreciative of the little things. (I'm at the point of wishing I was sitting solitary in the middle of the woods and what better way to do things you can't really do than to read about it? Nature is always there for me to appreciate.) Dillard has studied theology so I was very surprised (and pleased) that she wasn't writing more about religion. This reminded me of the essays of Barbara Kingsolver and her book Prodigal Summer is almost a fictional story of someone like Annie Dillard.read more
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Indescribable - very trippy meditation on being still, seeing, art, time. Beautifully written and leaves you with much to think about.read more
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Solipsistic indulgence for those with the luxury of luxury but not the luxury solipsism. Kind of disappointing as this was on my to read list for years. Is it misogynistic to say it doesn't help that Tavia Gilbert sounds like a mom? Is it immature? Someone call me on my guilt for not caring about this person's summer vacation!read more
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Well, this is a peculiar book that started out ploddingly yet picked up steam after the halfway point. At times it whines, shrilly, as self-indulgent and precious (though I guess any author could be accused of this) yet at other times has dazzling moments of brilliance and soulfulness. I thought I had no expectations going into this read but at the end I thought "Hmm, that was not what I expected at all." Of course now the problem is I don't know what I thought I would be in for, reading this book. Dillard has referred to this book as a "book of theology" and that could be the portion that is tripping me up ~ all of the visceral wonder at God's own creation stuff made me cringe just a little, tiny bit. The book has also been likened to Thoreau's Walden. This I can appreciate much more fully as the passages where Dillard is engrossed, consumed in her interactions with the animals, birds and insects of Tinker Creek, carry more strength (for me) when not wrapped up in reckoning with God. Overall, the idea of being more present, of seeing (not just looking) nature and the diurnal nuances of life is so important and something we all should be making more time for in our harried, disconnected lives.read more
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I have been going to read this one for years and finally got to listen to it. It lived up to what I expected of it. It is Dillard's nature observations during a year in WV, with wonderful tangents into philosophy and fantasy. I only wish I could learn to be such an excellent observer.read more
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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.read more
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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.read more
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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.read more
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I'm not sure how anyone wrote such a book unless it was by hanging a tape recorder around the neck. A torrent of thoughts and useless information - some interesting.read more
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Overwritten, but beautifully so. And justifyably so: The dramatic extravagance of her prose reflects the inexhaustible spectacle of nature itself. She was 27 in 1972 when she wrote these reflections on nature, science, theology, and whatever tidbits of information were caputured, pinned to a table, and analyzed by the quixotic butterfly net of her mind. This is not a romantic ode to the beauty of nature. Yes, she sees the beauty but she sees the horror also: the transience of life, the meaninglessness of death, the frank speculation about what kind of a God set this all in motion.The framework of the book is a series of chapters corresponding to the seasons of one year as she explores the woods near her home in Virginia. Interspersed with her own observations are tidbits of science, followed by metaphysical interpretations. She sees, she wonders, she writes. Her responses to nature are visceral:"A cast-iron bell hung from the arch of my rib cage; when I stirred it rang, or it tolled, a long syllable pulsing ripples up my lungs and down the gritty sap inside my bones, and I couldn't make it out; I felt the voiced vowel like a sigh or a note but I couldn't catch the consonant that shaped it into sense."This would be a great book to take on a camping trip or retreat. It is a book that I will revisit throughout my life like an old friend.read more
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Annie Dillard has a talent for combining reflection, introspection, anecdotes, and the many things she's read in a fascinating mixture. I've enjoyed all her books, but this one is my favorite by far. I found it inspirational for my own writing when I read it.read more
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I am so utterly envious of Dillard. She writes with such poise and it seems effortless, as though the words are just falling out of the air into her pen. Some of the descriptions are just fantastic. The best part of my public school education was this book. Can you imagine she wrote this so young? I have to say I don't like her later books as much as this one. HIGHLY recommended.read more
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Way too much fluff, and too little substance. I would read several pages at a time before I realized I hadn't learned anything worthwhile, if not anything at all. Would not recommend.read more
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This is such a beautiful book, and my all-time favorite. Annie Dillard tries to find meaning in nature that can be applied to our human lives. She is one of the most amazing writers - you can tell how carefully put-together her words are. Her writing style is beautiful - it almost reads like poetry.read more
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A glorious work by someone who has mastered the English language and has put together something of sheer brilliance. My only frustration with the book was how unfortunate it was that I had not read it until this point. She paints a vivid picture of her backyard and invites us in to observe what she does and we are lead to places overlooked. I hope to come back into this gem often.read more
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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.read more
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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.read more
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It won the Pulitzer. It is revered by nature writers. It is lyrical. It is boring.read more
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This book took me a while to get through mostly because I was reading others in between it. I can honestly say that I did enjoy most of it. Some parts I was pretty confused as to what Dillard was talking about but for the most part it was good. The reason I didn't like it so much because it was a journal type book. Annie Dillard wrote about her musings while living out near Tinker Creek. I normally wouldn't read something like this, but it was interesting. What I really like about it was the fact that it made you think about the world and whats around it. So all in all 3/5 stars.read more
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Nature writing is one of my favorites genres and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is on many "must read" lists. What I found most interesting is how the book reflected the time period when it was written. The early 70s were a time when many people were talking about our relationship with the environment. The first Earth Day and the Clean Air act are a couple examples. Like Thoreau, Dillard spends time exploring and observing nature. For me, the most interesting aspect was the way she conducted inquiries into topics of interest throughout the book. Rather than simply observing nature, she sought to understand the area around Tinker Creek and connect it to the larger environment. Whether talking about frogs, caterpillars, or muskrats, she motivates readers to pick up a science book and learn more. Although the writing is a little flowery at times, I can understand why it won the Pulitzer Prize.read more
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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.read more
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This is a great book! I actually may have given this book away, because I wanted someone else to enjoy it.read more
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I usually don't finish books that I dislike, that's why I have so few 2 star reviews here on this site. However, this one seemed harmless enough, and there were aspects of the book I liked (at least when I started). For example, there are a lot of stories and anecdotes about nature that were really interesting: "On cool autumn nights, eels hurrying to the sea sometimes crawl for a mile or more across dewy meadows to reach streams that will carry them to salt water." These are adult eels, silver eels, and this descent that slid down my mind is the fall from a long spring ascent the eels made years ago. [...] In the late summer of the year they reached maturity, they stopped eating and their dark color vanished. They turned silver; now they are heading to the sea [...where] they will mate, release their eggs, and die. [...] Imagine a chilly night and a meadow; balls of dew droop from the curved blades of grass. [...] Here come the eels. The largest are five feet long. All are silver. They stream into the meandow, sift between grasses and clover, veer from your path. There are too many to count. All you see is a silver slither, like twisted ropes of water falling roughly, a one-way milling and mingling over the meadow and slide to the creek."This is interesting. It's this kind of stuff that kept me reading. There's still a little bit of over-writing in there that I despise, but whatever. Now listen to this next part:"If I saw that sight, would I live? If I stumbled across it, would I ever set foot from my door again? Or would I be seized to join that compelling rush, would I cease eating, and pale, and abandon all to start walking?"Blegh! The melodrama! The romanticization! The overly dramatic prose... and why does she always think everything has to do with HER? Almost every time she mentions some natural phenomena, she inevitably ends the thought with some kind of personal revelation or reaction. It seems excessive and selfish and human-centric. It seems exactly what I don't want to read in a book about nature. She just inserts herself everywhere, as if her thoughts are more important than what is actually going on.As for the language, which people seem to praise, I found it bloated, overwritten and unnecessarily concerned with description. Not just description, but description bordering on embellishment. I felt her human hands in everything, making the beauty that she often describes into heavy prose full of awkward strain and effort.read more
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This book is like a book of blog posts, you know, before there were blogs. Annie Dillard lives on Tinker Creek. She documents, in stream of consciousness essay style, some of her observations of nature. She throws in some facts that she "knows" (in quotes because there were a few things that were wrong, but my science education started 20 years after this was published, so I don't fault her) and goes off on a lot of tangents. She'll start with something and end up talking about newly sighted blind people, or of contradictions or of God or of nature's profligate waste or whatever it is that's floating around in her head.

The book was somewhat difficult for me. It wanders and meanders. One one hand, she goes on about some scene she has seen in nature, which is delightful to read and reminds me of some of the remarkable things I've seen in nature. On the other hand, she wanders into tangents that either don't matter or are not interesting. Because she takes her time to meander around subjects and go off into the most boring series of thoughts, it was hard for me to continue reading. However, I thought her writing was beautiful. The prose was absolutely gorgeous. It's like finding some food that has the most amazing texture. It slides down the tongue of your brain in pure textural delight. The problem is, the flavor is terrible.

I will admit, I'm not a fan of stream of conscious style writing. I rarely have trouble reading it (Faulkner notwithstanding), I can't help but find it annoying. And it's the whole book.

There's a lot of philosophy - God and contradictions. Thoughts of nature and fecundity and waste and destiny and randomness and observation vs seeing and innocence and self-awareness. I like my books to be about something, not about being about something.

The philosophical wanderings in this book do feel young. Kind of like a bunch of college students. They're young and brilliant and invincible and sitting on the floor, drunk, after a party discussing deep, deep thoughts. It's that kind of young metaphysical meanderings.

One of the things that bugged me the most about this book was the anthropomorphizing of so much. She did it for nature, for bugs, for trees. For someone who likes to pull in science or facts (yeah I know, she also blathers about God and other silliness), it just annoyed me. Probably more than it should have, given the kind of book it is.

Sometimes, when I'm reading, my mind wanders. I find myself 4 or 5 pages further than I last remember... I've been reading, but not reading. I have to go back and re-read to catch what I missed. I did that a lot in this book, except that my mind never wandered. I just couldn't be bothered to digest what I was being fed. Eventually I learned to ignore the metaphysical junk and just focus on the anecdotes of nature and enjoy those. And it made the book a little easier to bear.

It's deep. It's spiritual. It's pretty. I get it, I just don't care.read more
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Something to reread when you are losing touch
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This book is a beautiful essay on the joy and wonder of seeing Nature. I just love this book. Annie Dillard writes about the mystical beauty and mystery of nature.
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"I was still ringing. I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck." For me, this quote captures both the pilgrim spirit and the poetic beauty of this collection of interwoven essays. Dillard's prose is exquisite. Her fascination with the natural world, freshly revealed on every page, is thoroughly contagious.
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I want to like Annie Dillard, I really do. I think the world is a better place because Annie Dillard thinks and writes as she does. But, the bugs. Lots and lots of looking at, thinking about, and describing bugs. Some other creatures too, both larger and smaller than bugs, but mostly bugs. As much as I appreciate the conclusions Dillard draws about the natural world and the nature of God, her minute observations about critters and plants could barely hold my attention. I took pious pleasure in finishing the book, like I had done something that, while a little boring, had it’s interesting moments and made me a better person – kind of like going to church.
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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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I needed to read a book like this right now. Dillard appreciates things within nature like a small child or a born-blind person with new sight.. noticing things down to the tiniest detail. (Literally -- she occasionally busts out a microscope and takes a gander at pond scum.) I only wish I was like that. I learned a ton of stunning nature based facts. And like I said, I really needed to read something nature based and appreciative of the little things. (I'm at the point of wishing I was sitting solitary in the middle of the woods and what better way to do things you can't really do than to read about it? Nature is always there for me to appreciate.) Dillard has studied theology so I was very surprised (and pleased) that she wasn't writing more about religion. This reminded me of the essays of Barbara Kingsolver and her book Prodigal Summer is almost a fictional story of someone like Annie Dillard.
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Indescribable - very trippy meditation on being still, seeing, art, time. Beautifully written and leaves you with much to think about.
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Solipsistic indulgence for those with the luxury of luxury but not the luxury solipsism. Kind of disappointing as this was on my to read list for years. Is it misogynistic to say it doesn't help that Tavia Gilbert sounds like a mom? Is it immature? Someone call me on my guilt for not caring about this person's summer vacation!
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Well, this is a peculiar book that started out ploddingly yet picked up steam after the halfway point. At times it whines, shrilly, as self-indulgent and precious (though I guess any author could be accused of this) yet at other times has dazzling moments of brilliance and soulfulness. I thought I had no expectations going into this read but at the end I thought "Hmm, that was not what I expected at all." Of course now the problem is I don't know what I thought I would be in for, reading this book. Dillard has referred to this book as a "book of theology" and that could be the portion that is tripping me up ~ all of the visceral wonder at God's own creation stuff made me cringe just a little, tiny bit. The book has also been likened to Thoreau's Walden. This I can appreciate much more fully as the passages where Dillard is engrossed, consumed in her interactions with the animals, birds and insects of Tinker Creek, carry more strength (for me) when not wrapped up in reckoning with God. Overall, the idea of being more present, of seeing (not just looking) nature and the diurnal nuances of life is so important and something we all should be making more time for in our harried, disconnected lives.
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I have been going to read this one for years and finally got to listen to it. It lived up to what I expected of it. It is Dillard's nature observations during a year in WV, with wonderful tangents into philosophy and fantasy. I only wish I could learn to be such an excellent observer.
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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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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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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'm not sure how anyone wrote such a book unless it was by hanging a tape recorder around the neck. A torrent of thoughts and useless information - some interesting.
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Overwritten, but beautifully so. And justifyably so: The dramatic extravagance of her prose reflects the inexhaustible spectacle of nature itself. She was 27 in 1972 when she wrote these reflections on nature, science, theology, and whatever tidbits of information were caputured, pinned to a table, and analyzed by the quixotic butterfly net of her mind. This is not a romantic ode to the beauty of nature. Yes, she sees the beauty but she sees the horror also: the transience of life, the meaninglessness of death, the frank speculation about what kind of a God set this all in motion.The framework of the book is a series of chapters corresponding to the seasons of one year as she explores the woods near her home in Virginia. Interspersed with her own observations are tidbits of science, followed by metaphysical interpretations. She sees, she wonders, she writes. Her responses to nature are visceral:"A cast-iron bell hung from the arch of my rib cage; when I stirred it rang, or it tolled, a long syllable pulsing ripples up my lungs and down the gritty sap inside my bones, and I couldn't make it out; I felt the voiced vowel like a sigh or a note but I couldn't catch the consonant that shaped it into sense."This would be a great book to take on a camping trip or retreat. It is a book that I will revisit throughout my life like an old friend.
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Annie Dillard has a talent for combining reflection, introspection, anecdotes, and the many things she's read in a fascinating mixture. I've enjoyed all her books, but this one is my favorite by far. I found it inspirational for my own writing when I read it.
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I am so utterly envious of Dillard. She writes with such poise and it seems effortless, as though the words are just falling out of the air into her pen. Some of the descriptions are just fantastic. The best part of my public school education was this book. Can you imagine she wrote this so young? I have to say I don't like her later books as much as this one. HIGHLY recommended.
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Way too much fluff, and too little substance. I would read several pages at a time before I realized I hadn't learned anything worthwhile, if not anything at all. Would not recommend.
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This is such a beautiful book, and my all-time favorite. Annie Dillard tries to find meaning in nature that can be applied to our human lives. She is one of the most amazing writers - you can tell how carefully put-together her words are. Her writing style is beautiful - it almost reads like poetry.
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A glorious work by someone who has mastered the English language and has put together something of sheer brilliance. My only frustration with the book was how unfortunate it was that I had not read it until this point. She paints a vivid picture of her backyard and invites us in to observe what she does and we are lead to places overlooked. I hope to come back into this gem often.
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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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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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It won the Pulitzer. It is revered by nature writers. It is lyrical. It is boring.
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This book took me a while to get through mostly because I was reading others in between it. I can honestly say that I did enjoy most of it. Some parts I was pretty confused as to what Dillard was talking about but for the most part it was good. The reason I didn't like it so much because it was a journal type book. Annie Dillard wrote about her musings while living out near Tinker Creek. I normally wouldn't read something like this, but it was interesting. What I really like about it was the fact that it made you think about the world and whats around it. So all in all 3/5 stars.
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Nature writing is one of my favorites genres and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is on many "must read" lists. What I found most interesting is how the book reflected the time period when it was written. The early 70s were a time when many people were talking about our relationship with the environment. The first Earth Day and the Clean Air act are a couple examples. Like Thoreau, Dillard spends time exploring and observing nature. For me, the most interesting aspect was the way she conducted inquiries into topics of interest throughout the book. Rather than simply observing nature, she sought to understand the area around Tinker Creek and connect it to the larger environment. Whether talking about frogs, caterpillars, or muskrats, she motivates readers to pick up a science book and learn more. Although the writing is a little flowery at times, I can understand why it won the Pulitzer Prize.
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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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This is a great book! I actually may have given this book away, because I wanted someone else to enjoy it.
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I usually don't finish books that I dislike, that's why I have so few 2 star reviews here on this site. However, this one seemed harmless enough, and there were aspects of the book I liked (at least when I started). For example, there are a lot of stories and anecdotes about nature that were really interesting: "On cool autumn nights, eels hurrying to the sea sometimes crawl for a mile or more across dewy meadows to reach streams that will carry them to salt water." These are adult eels, silver eels, and this descent that slid down my mind is the fall from a long spring ascent the eels made years ago. [...] In the late summer of the year they reached maturity, they stopped eating and their dark color vanished. They turned silver; now they are heading to the sea [...where] they will mate, release their eggs, and die. [...] Imagine a chilly night and a meadow; balls of dew droop from the curved blades of grass. [...] Here come the eels. The largest are five feet long. All are silver. They stream into the meandow, sift between grasses and clover, veer from your path. There are too many to count. All you see is a silver slither, like twisted ropes of water falling roughly, a one-way milling and mingling over the meadow and slide to the creek."This is interesting. It's this kind of stuff that kept me reading. There's still a little bit of over-writing in there that I despise, but whatever. Now listen to this next part:"If I saw that sight, would I live? If I stumbled across it, would I ever set foot from my door again? Or would I be seized to join that compelling rush, would I cease eating, and pale, and abandon all to start walking?"Blegh! The melodrama! The romanticization! The overly dramatic prose... and why does she always think everything has to do with HER? Almost every time she mentions some natural phenomena, she inevitably ends the thought with some kind of personal revelation or reaction. It seems excessive and selfish and human-centric. It seems exactly what I don't want to read in a book about nature. She just inserts herself everywhere, as if her thoughts are more important than what is actually going on.As for the language, which people seem to praise, I found it bloated, overwritten and unnecessarily concerned with description. Not just description, but description bordering on embellishment. I felt her human hands in everything, making the beauty that she often describes into heavy prose full of awkward strain and effort.
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This book is like a book of blog posts, you know, before there were blogs. Annie Dillard lives on Tinker Creek. She documents, in stream of consciousness essay style, some of her observations of nature. She throws in some facts that she "knows" (in quotes because there were a few things that were wrong, but my science education started 20 years after this was published, so I don't fault her) and goes off on a lot of tangents. She'll start with something and end up talking about newly sighted blind people, or of contradictions or of God or of nature's profligate waste or whatever it is that's floating around in her head.

The book was somewhat difficult for me. It wanders and meanders. One one hand, she goes on about some scene she has seen in nature, which is delightful to read and reminds me of some of the remarkable things I've seen in nature. On the other hand, she wanders into tangents that either don't matter or are not interesting. Because she takes her time to meander around subjects and go off into the most boring series of thoughts, it was hard for me to continue reading. However, I thought her writing was beautiful. The prose was absolutely gorgeous. It's like finding some food that has the most amazing texture. It slides down the tongue of your brain in pure textural delight. The problem is, the flavor is terrible.

I will admit, I'm not a fan of stream of conscious style writing. I rarely have trouble reading it (Faulkner notwithstanding), I can't help but find it annoying. And it's the whole book.

There's a lot of philosophy - God and contradictions. Thoughts of nature and fecundity and waste and destiny and randomness and observation vs seeing and innocence and self-awareness. I like my books to be about something, not about being about something.

The philosophical wanderings in this book do feel young. Kind of like a bunch of college students. They're young and brilliant and invincible and sitting on the floor, drunk, after a party discussing deep, deep thoughts. It's that kind of young metaphysical meanderings.

One of the things that bugged me the most about this book was the anthropomorphizing of so much. She did it for nature, for bugs, for trees. For someone who likes to pull in science or facts (yeah I know, she also blathers about God and other silliness), it just annoyed me. Probably more than it should have, given the kind of book it is.

Sometimes, when I'm reading, my mind wanders. I find myself 4 or 5 pages further than I last remember... I've been reading, but not reading. I have to go back and re-read to catch what I missed. I did that a lot in this book, except that my mind never wandered. I just couldn't be bothered to digest what I was being fed. Eventually I learned to ignore the metaphysical junk and just focus on the anecdotes of nature and enjoy those. And it made the book a little easier to bear.

It's deep. It's spiritual. It's pretty. I get it, I just don't care.
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