Book of the Week: The Abundance – Annie Dillard

Poet, novelist and nonfiction writer Dillard burst on to the literary scene at age 29 with the now classic Pilgrim at Tinker Creek—winner of the Pulitzer Prize and still a hallmark of modern nature writing. Forty years later she was honored with a 2014 National Humanities Medal “for her profound reflections on human life and nature. In poetry and prose, Ms. Dillard has invited us to stand humbly before the stark beauty of creation.” This collection of essays is a lovely reflection on her remarkable canon.

 Marilynne Robinson writes that “Annie Dillard’s books are like comets, like celestial events that remind us that the reality we inhabit is itself a celestial event.” Lucky us to now have this collection of essays selected by Dillard herself–a personal survey of a lifetime of work gathered from previous works and selected “to put them in conversation with each other in ways that will entrance and surprise even devoted readers.” And of course it offers a welcome introduction to this literary light who Kirkus calls “a writer blessed with an all-consuming consciousness steeped in both faith and science.”

Several major publications are running essays by Dillard at publication: The New York Times Magazine, The Nation and The Atlantic. NPR’s “Weekend Edition” will do a segment; Poets & Writers will run a feature; and reviews are scheduled in the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Over the four decades since the publication of Pilgrim, the author’s vision has only sharpened….She’s at her best when seeing the world in a grain of sand, or billions of them; the essay “Sand” is also about prehistoric life and the Jesuit priest and philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who devoted his life to uncovering it. A similar juxtaposition of micro and macro is at work in “An Expedition to the Pole,” in which Dillard compares dual approaches to the infinite: Arctic exploration and Catholic Mass. The author gives insight into her own craft in her advice to younger writers: don’t bank your fire. “Don’t hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or another book; give it, give it all, give it now,” she writes. From the vantage point of her 70th year, this collection is a testament to a lifetime of doing just that.”
Kirkus Reviews

“After witnessing a total eclipse early one morning, Dillard meditates on the human awe at, and wariness of, natural spectacle: ‘From the depths of mystery, and even from the heights of splendor, we bounce back and hurry for the latitudes of home.’ Without being awake and attentive, Dillard warns, we’ll miss the wondrous details of the world around us and the nuances of our own lives: ‘I would like to live as I should, as the weasel lives as he should: open to time and death painlessly, noticing everything, remembering nothing, choosing the given with a fierce and pointed will.’…[T]his collection serves as a bracing introduction for readers unfamiliar with her work.”

“Such wonderful snippets of insight they read like meditations.  Forget the daily devotional.  Here is all the contemplation you need for the year ahead.  Find yourself comfortably a fish out of water and let the feeling migrate to the back of your mind and hang there until you pick more Abundance to read again.”
— Charity McMaster, Schuler Books & Music, Grand Rapids, MI

The Abundance: Narrative Essays Old and New (9780062432971) by Annie Dillard. $25.99 hardcover. 3/15/16 on sale.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s