Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Yet another book review!

I was feeling brave and philosophical, so I read Annie Dillard's masterpiece Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.

In high school I absolutely loathed reading Thoreau, so it is surprising that I liked Annie Dillard's book. She has been dubbed a modern-day Thoreau, a naturalist, a philosopher, and an essayist. From what I remember of Thoreau, he was really inaccessible, wordy, and boring. After reading Dillard, I've actually wanted to take another stab at Thoreau to see if I can actually get something out of it. Dillard quotes Mr. Thoreau a few times in her book and the quotes she used were really great. Then again, she may have snatched the only really good quotes from him. I can't remember him well enough.

That being said...

Annie Dillard's book is fantastic! I was first exposed to her writing in a creative writing class where we read an excerpt from Pilgrim and also watched/listened to a reading she did at BYU back in the 80s. From that point I was changed. Her style is very descriptive and beautiful. In an afterword to her book, she says that her writing has been cut down since, but she left it the way it was simply because it shows her progress as a writer. Wow. If she sees this book as amateur-ish then I have a long way to go with my own writing.

Every chapter covers a different part of nature (i.e. reproduction, locusts and parasites, stalking, etc.). I think my favorite part was when she talks about stalking. She becomes obsessed with seeing muskrats which are, apparently, very elusive creatures. So much so that she basically becomes a stalker of muskrats. After very lengthy descriptions of the animals, of her surroundings, and of her stalking tactics, she begins to tie this in with Moses. You would not think that Moses and muskrats would have anything in common. Well, they don't. Annie likens herself to Moses and the muskrats are Jehovah. If you remember, in the Old Testament, how Moses could only see the "back parts" of Jehovah and he only got to look from the outside in at the promised land that he would never be able to enter. Such is how she felt while stalking the muskrats.

It's gems like these (and I can't do them justice by explaining them) that make the book worth reading. I am also reading The Hidden Christ by James L. Ferrell. It was interesting to see some correlations between Ferrell's book and Dillard's. Synthesis is one of the greatest and most fun things about reading and analyzing literature.

So, if you, too, are feeling brave and philosophical give this one a read. I promise you won't be disappointed.

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