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Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
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Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974)

by Annie Dillard

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,807611,362 (4.23)1 / 217
  1. 20
    Walden by Henry David Thoreau (Emydidae)
    Emydidae: Annie Dillard was very much influenced by Thoreau (she did her master's thesis on Walden at Hollins College), and both Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and Walden have similar narrative structures. Both books follow their narrator through the course of a year, and both weave detailed observations of the natural world together with self-examination and statements of a personal worldview. Annie Dillard's concerns are more explicitly theological, while Thoreau tends to be more concerned with the relationship between the individual and society - but both of their books are beautifully-written, densely symbolic investigations into the relationship between the self, nature, and the spiritual. It's interesting to think about the links and contrasts between the two books - for example, between Dillard's idea of "seeing" and Thoreau's reflections on self-exploration and awareness.… (more)
  2. 00
    In Earshot of Water: Notes from the Columbia Plateau by Paul Lindholdt (bezoar44)
    bezoar44: These authors share some of the same fearless introspection; and while both study the natural world, it is in some ways just a (vital) context in which to explore what it means to live meaningfully.
  3. 00
    Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting by Michael Perry (Othemts)
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I read a good chunk of this book while I was staying in a cabin in Custer, South Dakota, surrounded by nature. It was cool reading about the brutal/beautiful duality of nature while I listened to crickets chirp and watched birds fly across the sky. The coolness of that experience wore off after 3 or 4 days though, and Dillard's writing started to feel pretentious and I longed for something with a plot. However, the writing is great—you'll find lots of passages you'll want to underline—and it's a great piece of nature writing that'll open your eyes to the invisible goings on around you. I would recommend taking it slow, letting the experience sink in at the rate it wants to, rather than rushing through it in 5 days like I did. ( )
  AngelClaw | Jun 25, 2017 |
This is a book that I have tried and failed reading several times before taking up and reading it through. Not because it isn't good, but it isn't light. Dillard is attentive to all the details of creation around her and her attentiveness demands attention. There are stories and descriptions of copperheads and moth larvae, parasitic wasps, squirrels and birds, paramecium, trees, mountain, and of course, creek. All teeming with life and fecundity, all full of beauty. Dillard possesses a reflective mind, poetic gift, delicacy and wonder. She moves easily between scientific description and metaphysical rapture. Reading this book is demanding and leads you to an encounter with creation and Creator (though not an explicitly or exclusively Christian understanding). ( )
  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
A wonderful book full of information about what the author observes on Tinker Creek, the inter-species relationships there, and stories she learned along her personal life's journey. Stalking and observing muskrats sounded fun, but I wouldn't have sat down and had a chat with a copperhead, even if I did learn that a mosquito could bite it. Some of her sentences are structured in such a way that they paint word pictures and you can almost see Tinker Creek with its fish, mammals, birds, and other creatures. You have to take your time with this book otherwise you might miss something. ( )
  lisa.schureman | Nov 22, 2016 |
I dimly remember reading Annie Dillard’s Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek back in the 70s. Recently, seeing excerpts and hearing gushing praise, I decided to have another look. One her website, Dillard has written the following, “I can no longer travel, can't meet with strangers, can't sign books but will sign labels with SASE, can't write by request, and can't answer letters. I've got to read and concentrate. Why? Beats me. // Please don't use Wikipedia. It is unreliable; anyone can post anything, no matter how wrong. For example, an article by Mary Cantwell misquotes me wildly. The teacher in me says, "The way to learn about a writer is to read the text. Or texts." Here is some information for scholars. (I’ve posted this web-page in defense; a crook bought the name and printed dirty pictures, then offered to sell it to me. I bit. In the course of that I learned the web is full of misinformation. This is a corrective.)"

My twenty-fifth-anniversary edition also has a blurb by Eudora Welty, who describes the work better than I can. Welty writes, “The book is a form of meditation written with headlong urgency about seeing, A reader’s heart must go out to a young writer with a sense of wonder so fearless and unbridled. […] There is an ambition about her book that I like […] It is the ambition to feel.” That is precisely the effect Pilgrim had on me.

Dillard spends much of her time looking at nature, plants, trees, insects, flora and fauna. Her wanderings bear a close resemblance to Thoreau’s wanderings around Walden Pond. She writes, “It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued he won’t stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a life-time of days. It is that simple. What you see is what you get” (17).

I marked numerous passages and selecting good examples was no easy task. I loved the one about pennies, and it struck me that my habit of up picking coins of all sorts might have begun when I first read Dillard. Here is another of my favorites, “This is the sort of stuff I read all winter. The books I read are like the stone men built by the Eskimos of the great desolate tundra west of Hudson’s Bay. They still build them today, according to Farley Mowat. An Eskimo traveling alone in the flat barrens will heap round stones to the height of a man, travel until he can no longer see the beacon, and build another. So I travel mute among these books, these eyeless men and women that people the empty plain. I wake up thinking: What am I reading? What will I read next? I’m terrified that I’ll run out, that I will read through all I want to, and be forced to learn wildflowers at last, to keep awake” (44).

If it has been a while since you walked with Annie Dillard, pick up Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, slow down, stop and smell Nature. 5 stars.

--Jim, 5/28/16 ( )
1 vote rmckeown | May 30, 2016 |
Annie enjoys nature in Puget Sound. More introspective than my tastes today ( )
  Bruce_Deming | Feb 5, 2016 |
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Epigraph
It ever was, and is, and shall be, ever-living Fire, in measures being kindled and in measures going out.
---Heraclitus
Dedication
for Richard
First words
I used to have a cat, an old fighting tom, who would jump through the open window by my bed in the middle of the night and land on my chest.
Quotations
Not only does something come if you wait, but it pours over you like a waterfall, a tidal wave. You wait in all naturalness without expectation or hope, emptied, translucent, and that which comes rocks and topples you; it will shear, loose, launch, winnow, grind.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061233323, Paperback)

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."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:22 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A collection of essays on the natural world during a year spent in the Blue Ridge Mountains reflects the author's interactions with her wilderness surroundings.

» see all 4 descriptions

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