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Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and…

Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters (1982)

by Annie Dillard

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Annie Dillard sees things others don't see; she also sees things differently than the rest of us, sometimes. Her prose can be gorgeous, but it can also be baffling, and I just don't get what she's talking about all the time. That last bit is almost a direct quote from Eudora Welty, who said the same thing upon reading some of Dillard's early work. She was referring to Dillard's personification of inanimate objects, I believe, but I sort of get that part. (Rocks, after all. Seriously. "It is all, God help us, a matter of rocks." )
Where she loses me is in her deeper philosophical musings, which are sometimes so personal (like poetry) that I doubt if anyone understands all of them. But when she touches a chord, it vibrates right down to the soles of my feet. And she makes some very pertinent observations regarding God, spirituality and nature. This, in particular: "God does not demand that we ...lose ourselves and turn from all that is not him. God needs nothing, asks nothing, and demands nothing, like the stars....You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary. But the stars neither require nor demand it."

This collection of essays, published several years after her Pulitzer Prize winning Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, is alternately brilliant, boring (I've had it with tales of polar expeditions---it's not really her fault), entertaining and enlightening. I loved her unexpected mind meld with a weasel; her inability to tear herself away from the spectacle of sea birds diving for the openings of their nests in crevices of a sheer lava cliff face in the Galapagos Islands (she missed the boat back); her description of the sense of disorientation even an educated 20th century human can experience in the face of a total solar eclipse. In fact, with the exception of "An Expedition to the Pole", there is not a single selection in this volume that I do not look forward to revisiting, often. ( )
1 vote laytonwoman3rd | Nov 30, 2016 |
My mom told me this was her favorite book. It is still in the currently reading pile but at the bottom.
  mlake | Apr 28, 2015 |
"A collection of meditations like polished stones--painstakingly worded, tough-minded, yet partial to mystery, and peerless when it comes to injecting larger resonances into the natural world." -- --Kirkus Reviews

"Teaching a Stone to Talk is superb. As with the flying fish, Annie Dillard doesn't do it often, but when she does she silver-streaks out of the blue and archingly transcends all other writers of our day in all the simple, intimate, and beautiful ways of the natural master." -- -- R. Buckminster Fuller

"The natural world is ignited by her prose and we see the world as an incandescent metaphor of the spirit...Few writers evoke better than she the emotion of awe, and few have ever conveyed more graphically the weight of silence, the force of the immaterial." -- -- Robert Taylor, Boston Globe

"This little book is haloed and informed throughout by Dillard's distinctive passion and intensity, a sort of intellectual radiance that reminds me both Thoreau and Emily Dickinson." -- -- Edward Abbey, Chicago Sun-Times
  Bonneville_Dam | Apr 2, 2015 |
Much more unfocused and wild (?) than Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (my love!), but that's just the nature of essays, no? I prefer the essays in the first half of the book, for some reason. ( )
  amelish | Sep 12, 2013 |
In a lot of ways, Dillard taught me to see. She gave me tools I use every day, and hope to use for every day I have left. Her prose is full of awe and wonder and reverence. This is my favorite of all her books.
( )
  satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060915412, Paperback)

Here, in this compelling assembly of writings, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Dillard explores the world of natural facts and human meanings.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:30 -0400)

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The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer shares her sharply observed, keenly felt encounters with the natural world--in landscapes of Eastern woods and farmlands, the Pacific Northwest coast, and tropical islands and rivers.

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