Group Read- Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard
Liity LibraryThingin jäseneksi, niin voit kirjoittaa viestin.
Tämä viestiketju on "uinuva" —viimeisin viesti on vanhempi kuin 90 päivää. Ryhmä "virkoaa", kun lähetät vastauksen.
"Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Annie Dillard presents a series of connected essays that chronicle a year at Tinker Creek in Virginia's Blue Ridge valley. Observant, deeply contemplative, and beautifully written, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek challenges listeners to study their surroundings beyond their familiar surfaces and uncover new and refreshing milieus."
Not exactly on-topic, but true nonetheless :)
It seems to be living up to my high expectations of her writing, and I look forward to getting stuck in.
Dr Jim- thanks! I hope you'd "help" with that.
I have decided to spend this days reading devoted to The Demon in the Freezer as it is really compelling reading and I cannot stop. Then I shall be able to devote myself fully to Dillard and better appreciate her pensive style, which is, in fact, more my style.
"After thousands of years we're still strangers to darkness, fearful aliens in an enemy camp with our arms crossed over our chests."
-Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
^This is truly a thing of beauty. I am only 40 pages in but WOW! I quickly forgive Megan for making me pick this up so quickly.
And I've put the book on hold at the library. What the heck, I've got nothing else to read this month.
(nice work Mark in hooking her in with those quotes)
No time frame, I have only just started, Mark/msf59 is slightly ahead of where I am, and Pat/Phebj has started too. So jump on in and join in the discussion any time.
It was my thread where we first talked about a GR.
After I read Dillard's An American Childhood, richardderus posted at #202 that "The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek will cement her place on your life-list." So I told him of soundly for not making me aware of this sooner, and promptly sought the book out. :) People joined in.
I read that as that you just finished the book today and I thought, gosh, that was quick!
But, I'm going to have to get on my soapbox and offer an alternative view.
As a landowner, I have to point out some of her actions are downright rude.
Crossing the creek on the cable fencing stretching over it? I wonder if she's ever offered to help tighten the cable - a real pain since you the cable is so stiff and you have to use a comealong to do it- or resetting the fence posts loosened by that action. There's a reason she hasn't seen anyone else cross that way except the neighborhood kids.
And intentionally spooking cows so they take off in a panicked run? It sounds to me likes she's scared to death of them. It makes her a bit dumber in my book than the beef-brained cows.
Imagine if someone asked (or didn't ask) to enjoy your back yard for a bit. They then proceed to climb over your rose trellis to avoid a wet patch (but Hey! it didn't break! so why are you complaining?) and then ran shouting at your dog who is standing along the fence because that is where the 'guest' wants to go and laughs when the dog runs off terrified.
Unfortunately, these sort of actions are why landowners and ranchers hang out the No Trespassing signs.
Off the soapbox.
I am up to about p125 or so. I loved chapter 6, "The Present". Maybe because I was able to read it properly, with concentration, but it seemed to really gel with me. All those times when I have had epiphanous moments in nature...just randomly when seeing a hill, or the light hitting something in a certain way. She went some way to articulating that for me.
“I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wondering awed about on a splintered wreck I've come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them...”
27: One person's lyrical is another person's pretentious... :-)
The cow-shooing reads more innocently to me though, which is probably why I didn't react much first time. I did note on first read that she seemed a tad hateful to the cows. I mean just because they are farmed for beef, doesn't make them any less an animal, does it?
One person's lyrical is another person's pretentious..
I fall into the "it's lyrical" category for those quotes.
I opened this book without knowing anything about it. I should have given myself some background - but I was reading my Kindle in bed. No covers or blurbs to read first.
>25 streamsong: Good points, Janet.
I, too, assumed this was her own property. Had no idea about the fences needing to be tightened, etc. Some people don't think about how disrespectful they are on other people's property.
She strikes me as child-like/unthinking/oblivious (not malicious) when it comes to spooking animals... like the children at the seashore that need to chase after seagulls and sandpipers. I guess you have to push the envelope to observe/explore the reality around you? Not trying to defend her actions but as long as she doesn't keep repeating these actions I don't think they are abusive.
As I read this, it was an experience of "feeling" the environment and life within it as well as just "seeing" it. Much of it was indeed poetic and lyrical - adding a dimension of being/feeling a part of it all.
Understanding some of it (the superficial sensing), but wondering about some of it too (the heart of what is not seen).
^ glad you found us Cee! Good points, re: feeling the environment. A lot of us just go about oblivious to it, which is easy to do in a manufactured environment. (although I try to look up at clouds or pretty building)
What about that frog eating bug? Pretty crazy!
I thought she chased the cows to establish dominance, so the steers wouldn't run after her.
That also makes sense.....I guess we will never know what her intentions were (unless someone asks her!).
There are lots of times one wants to be able to have a stranger walk up to your cows in the field-- the neighbor watching them while you are on vacation, the vet, the brand inspector, the person wanting to buy one from the field instead of through an auction. Like any herbivore, (well moose are an exception!), the more often they are chased, the spookier they are.
But enough about cows. I agree she didn't have bad intentions and was just being a pilgrim--which if you've watched John Wayne movies isn't always a complement ....
I don't even have cows, although I am surrounded by them. What I have is a creek, with a popular, generations-old favorite fishing spot on it that people like to access through my private lane (ditch company right-of-way) at the back of my property. I'm happy to keep the lane open and accessible as more and more places are posted with no trespassing signs. I love when people stop by the house and tell me how they fished there as a kid and now are taking their grandkids fishing there. But sometimes I tear my hair out-- right now someone slid off my private road and took out two wooden fence posts. I'm too old to dig post holes! I'll have to hire someone (when the ground thaws ).... and so I get crabby... and so it goes. Pics of my place on my profile page of anyone's interested.
That is really cool. It is great of you to put up with the guff so that some can get the access and use it respectfully.
When I lived in Fremantle, Western Australia, I had a decades old fig free in my front yard, I used to watch people take one or two but once I saw someone standing on the fence walking around and filling his bag with them! They were huge and beautiful (my flatmate once sold them to a local restaurant for 80c each).
I just wished people had asked, as I would have let them.
*off to see picture of your place*
Anyway, still loving Dillard's contemplations. This is a great book to read in bed before going to sleep... at least so far.
I'm getting frustrated a bit with reading this on a Kindle. I may wind up buying this book in paper form. I want to easily navigate back and forth, mark pages, etc. I just upgraded my Kindle and have to go through the learning process again.
I like the scientific detail in Dillard's writing- there, but not any more detail than I am looking for. And all without interrupting the narrative.
I am very close to finishing now- it is very lovely, and best kept for when you can concentrate so that you don't miss anything.
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard (Pulitzer Prize winner 1975)
After seeing past the exceedingly ugly cover of An American Childhood I discovered that I had discovered, all by myself and against all odds, this 'new' wonderful author, Annie Dillard. Imagine my delight when I hear she has written more books. And that some of them won prestigious prizes. And, I hear there are more books yet.....
This book though, not a collection of essays as has been suggested, but recollections and observations collated while living by Tinker Creek, Virginia. The story talks of all the seasons she experienced there, and of the thoughts that struck her- and she has many of these. To me, the intensity and passion of these thoughts were very much there, but so well balanced with a shrug to fate that the story does not read like a wall-to-wall rant. She re-frames the human experience by comparing it with the harsh realities of nature, and in doing so, I think, is able to make us step back and view ourselves and our own lives in a more balanced way.
The reading of this book requires concentration. You want to read each word in its chosen place, carefully. Consequently there are sections that went right over my head, but this did not stop me enjoying them purely for the language used and the way it sounded in my head. I feel I missed out a bit from not being local- most of the birds and plants are foreign to me so had to be imagined. But otherwise- this books flows so nicely, has many fascinating anecdotes and a tonne and a half of food for thought.
I got to bed kinda late last night and didn't get a full dose of Tinker Creek. I felt deprived of my bedtime treat. So, I need to go to bed earlier tonight to catch up to myself and feel satisfied.
I'm really liking Dillard's writing... and like you say - there are MORE good books by her. yay!
I thought the unindexed tidbits were refreshing :) I find footnotes distracting in a narrative so it was nice not to have to feel compelled to flick and check a reference.
Note use of conditional.
Still slowly ingesting this rich dish first eaten many years ago.
Last night,I started reading again after a several day break. Thank you for mentioning the afterward. I'll read that part next and then continue.
My copy of the book is old enough that it didn't have the afterword, or the after-afterword, both of which are (mostly) available online at Amazon.
Annie Dillard calls this a spiritual journey using nature as metaphor. In that light, beginning the quest by chasing away what she perceives as the dull, pedestrian, beef-brained cows and even crossing the creek by the cable fencing as only the children do, work well beginning her spiritual quest.
Her habit of throwing out 'facts' that I know aren't true (she can adjust her eyes enough to see amoeba - she's not using a microscope in this passage to see something the size of a white blood cell!) as well as facts that I have no idea are true ; (as Katherine mentioned above the muscles in a caterpillar's head). As irritating as I find the 'not true' facts, I shall now take them all on as spiritual metaphor.
The image of the moth mutilated by the unwitting actions of children under the direction of their teacher is one I'll carry a long time.
That was painful to read.
Am I the only one still reading?
I'm done reading, but I went back through and scribbled notes on the bits that stood out, and began writing a review. I'm an excruciatingly slow writer, hope to finish today, but have other stuff to do while it's still light out.
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard (5 stars)
This book was intense and amazing. I loved it a LOT! And I will be re-reading this now and then. What I now realize though is - it should be read a chapter at a time. I just couldn't hold myself back and I think I overdosed ;-) It was wonderful.
The Afterward written by Dillard NEEDS to be read first.
It gives the book structure and allows the reader to understand her intention. I loved her sense of nature, humor, life, death, beauty ... reading Tinker Creek was a wonderful experience for me. This book is filled with exuberance and mysticism. Dillard's observations are incredible; her contemplations are worthy and wise.
"4. A caterpillar has as many as 4,000 muscles in its body.
That's one seriously muscle-bound insect! By comparison, humans have just 629 muscles in a considerably larger body. The caterpillar's head capsule alone consists of 248 individual muscles, and about 70 muscles control each body segment. Remarkably, each of the 4,000 muscles is innervated by one or two neurons."
I wrote a paragraph then got tangled up in my notes, so no review today.
^ Cee, I am so glad you loved Tinker Creek! I am still thinking of tracking down my ex-bf to make sure he reads it, as I think he would love it too.
I've dipped back in to Annie Dillard because qebo pointed me to this thread. I've read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek several times, the first time when I was about twelve, when I read it with my mother.
In those first days, what made an impression on me were the stories -- the polyphemus moth, the frog dissolving into a bag of skin. Both of which made a profound impression on me as a young girl--I think it was Dillard who taught me that nature is both amazing and awful, and also apathetic to our own human notions of what is good or bad. (As apathetic as Dillard herself, perhaps, when confronted with a barbed wire fence blocking her route across a field).
I always remembered that moth and that frog, as I also remembered the tomcat with bloody paws, the sharks swimming in the waves, the swallow diving straight down, the hundreds of birds in the Osage orange. Even today, when my reading of Dillard is more nuanced and critical, these are the things that stay with me. And I can credit Dillard and my mother for teaching me that year that miracles occur in amazing abundance, all around me, often unnoticed. Annie Dillard, and a young funny writer named Gerald Durrell, taught me the joys of looking down.
Nowadays what I find compelling in Dillard are not just the stories, but her sort of extended, exuberant paean to the quest to live in the present, to be in the moment. I don't think I would have understood that idea when I was younger, and life was always about looking forward to what comes next. But now that I've got my philosophical feet planted on the ground, so to speak, I get the exhilaration she feels when she talks about suddenly seeing the tree with the lights in it, or "patting the puppy, looking at the mountain."
After the flood last year I found a big tulip-tree limb that had been wind-thrown into Tinker Creek. The current dragged it up on some rocks on the bank, where receding waters stranded it. A month after the flood I discovered that it was growing new leaves. Both ends of the branch were completely exposed and dried. I was amazed. It was like the old fable about the corpse's growing a beard; it was as if the woodpile in my garage were suddenly to burst greenly into leaf. The way plants persevere in the bitterest of circumstances is utterly heartening. I can barely keep from unconsciously ascribing a will to these plants, a do-or-die courage, and I have to remind myself that coded cells and mute water pressure have no idea how grandly they are flying in the teeth of it all.
I liked that part too ;-)
I love how she blends science with personal interpretation.
I love this book for it's amazing attention to the details of the natural world and the way in which it addresses the question of what it means to be human amidst the wonders and terrors of creation. For this reading, I was struck by how often Dillard addresses spiritual questions. For example, in discussing parasitic insects, Dillard comments:
"The creator is no puritan. A creature need not work for a living: creatures may simply steal and suck and be blessed for all that with a share--an enormous share--of the sunlight and air. There is something that profoundly fails to be exuberant about these crawling, translucent lice and white, fat-bodied grubs, but there is an almost manic exuberance about a creator who turns them out, creature after creature, and sets them buzzing and lurking and flying and swimming about. These parasites are our companions at life, wending there dim, unfathomable ways, into the tender tissues of their living hosts, searching as we are simple for food, for energy to grow and breed, to fly of creep on the planet, adding more shapes to the texture of intricacy and more life to the universal dance."
"But the question of who is thinking the thought is more fruitful than the question of who made the machine, for a machinist can of course wipe his hands and leave, and his simple machine still hums; but if the thinker's attention strays for a minute, his simplest thought ceases altogether."
In the afterward, she says the intent was a theodicy, which suggests she was interested in the question if not committed to the answer.
That's right. I'd forgotten about that part of her intent in the Afterward. See? The Afterward is important!
"...interested in the question if not committed to the answer. "
That, I think, covers a lot of us. For how are we to know? But it doesn't stop us from wondering...
As do I, but that is possibly my personal biases coming to the fore. In fact, I took the exact opposite away from @bahzah, I thought she did not believe, but left it ambiguous so as to appeal to those who do.
I think this is the case. I feel that if she were a believer in God she would talk freely about that, rather than make it more abstract just to please 'everyone'. I would, anyway :)
I assume that Dillard believes in God at some level, because I can't imagine she would devote so much time and thought to the Creator's intentions if she thought otherwise. I didn't have the afterword, I will have to look for it.
I didn't intend to imply that. Perhaps "speak to" instead of "appeal to" would have been a better choice of words.
I enjoyed her extended rumination on what possible evolutionary advantage we could have in being cursed with emotions.
We value the individual supremely, and nature values him not a whit. It looks for a moment as though I might have to reject this creek life unless I want to be utterly brutalized.
And she goes on to think about the purpose of our ability to "care" about ourselves and others...to mourn when we encounter death:
Do the barnacle larvae care? Does the lacewing who eats her eggs care? If they do not care, then why am I making all this fuss? If I am a freak, then why don't I hush?
Our excessive emotions are so patently painful and harmful to us as a species that I can hardly believe that they evolved. Other creatures manage to have effective matings and even stable societies without great emotions, and they have a bonus in that they need not ever mourn. (But some higher animals have emotions that we think our similar to ours: dogs, elephants, otters, and the sea mammals mourn their dead. Why do that to an otter? What creator could be so cruel, not to kill otters, but to let them care?) It would seem that emotions are the curse, not death.
It's a slow exploration into the dilemmas that everywhere confront us when we not only anthropomorphize nature, but try to overlay it with our own ideas of what is "moral" or "right."
I tend now to shrug and say well there’s a simple resolution to this dilemma, but even with an intellectual resolution I admit to a “WTF, universe?” Does it have to be this way? What might alternatives be?
How does one define “care”, and measure it objectively?
And my head begins to hurt. This is why I am a computer programmer and not a philosopher.
I marked a paragraph a few pages before that (177 in my edition) because it made me laugh; what happens when one tries to get into the "design" business:
"Say you are the manager of the Southern Railroad. You figure that you need three engines for a stretch of track between Lynchburg and Danville. It's a mighty steep grade. So at fantastic effort and expense you have your shops make nine thousand engines. Each engine must be fashioned just so, every rivet and bolt secure, every wire twisted and wrapped, every needle on every indicator sensitive and accurate. You send all nine thousand of them out on the runs. Although there are engineers at the throttles, no one is manning the switches. The engines crash, collide, derail, jump, jam, burn... At the end of the massacre you have three engines, which is what the run could support in the first place. There are few enough of them that they can stay out of each others' paths. You go to your board of directors and show them what you've done."
Dillard seems to vascillate continuously between "WTF?" and "Oh, WOW!"
I get it. The fig tree in my back yard is apparently pollinated by a very specific kind of tiny wasp that must somehow crawl up into the fruit:
And I end up thinking "THIS is what you all came up with as the best evolutionary strategy? WTF?"
It would be interesting to see how Dillard's perspective on what it means to be "efficient" in nature -- what in fact it means to be "an individual" in nature -- would change in the wake of Richard Dawkins' suggestion that it is not about the individual, it's all about the gene.
It's interesting that the afterword was written twenty five years after the book. I wonder how those twenty five years affected her viewpoint?
I don't see her vagueness as manipulative - I see it as her own searching. Sometimes one writes a book to help clarify one's thoughts on the journey, not to espouse a given viewpoint.
According to the 'About the author' mentioned above, it says that her first book, a book of poetry entitled Tickets for a Prayer Wheel, was published just months before APATC and explored 'desperately searching for the hidden God."
There are a multitude of Christian references in the book, but overall, I think, a strong Buddhist flavor. It would be interesting to read Teaching a Stone to Talk which is billed as continuing the journey begun on Tinker Creek.
I was able to look at the afterward, Streamsong, and it was interesting, though I don't think it would have changed the way I looked at the book.
This has been an interesting discussion, so far. I would like to read more of Dillard in the future--would anyone be interested in a group-read of An American Childhood sometime in the future?
I loved the Bellingham area when I was there for Booktopia last year. I bought several books more or less local to the area, but not that one. It would be interesting to read some of her fiction.
I'm definitely interested in joining in, but I am feeling a bit buried in group & challenge reads right now.
Me too, but I hope to be somewhat up for air in March.
Oh, me too. I loved that section.
>78 banjo123: I have just read An American Childhood this year, and loved it. I hope you get a few to join in, as I actually enjoyed it more than Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.