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on July 20, 2006
This is my first Dillard book, after a failed attempt to read "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" at age 16. I am now 23; I have a very different worldview than I did at 16, and although I am still relatively young and inexperienced, and make no claims to be more intelligent or intellectually gifted than other reviewers, I must take issue with the two reviewers below who gave only one star. I love this book, and I believe two of my fellow reviewers have missed some important points. One Robert Michael accuses Dillard of providing "no analysis" of her "only one very general theme"; I say, he was expecting Dillard to do all the work for him, but her goal was to relate her musings and leave the detailed analysis to the reader. I find this a very effective and gratifying method: Dillard trusts her readers to come to their own conclusions, which may or may not match her conclusions from the thought trails she is following. Her observations are profound, unique, beautiful, and moving, and even more so when I let them take my mind on its own thoughtful journey.
Another reviewer, Hortensia "massageprop," accuses Dillard of "[assuming] that Jews and Christians have all the answers to fundamental questions about existence," but I am POSITIVE that Dillard's point is exactly the opposite: she finds little meaning in either, or in any organized religion, and is wondering how people have fooled themselves into finding so much meaning in these belief systems for so long, shutting themselves off from other modes of thought. She acknowledges that it is possible to find some meaning in religion, but no more meaning than in any other belief systems including nature worship, or atheistic or agnostic philosophy; further, she shows us that although it is impossible to ever completely satisfy our thirst for fulfillment and meaning, we would be shortchanging ourselves if we limited ourselves to only one belief system - they all deserve attention and exploration because each has unique gifts. All of Dillard's musings on religion seem to me filled with spirituality at a first glance of their thin surfaces, but are really meant to emphasize the emptiness beneath the façade of religious tradition and ritual. Each of these reviewers needs to take a second look at this book, and expect to do more work and listen a bit harder: Dillard's style is subtlety, and the extra work she requires from her reader leads to a much richer and more deeply meaningful reading experience.
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on October 20, 1999
I teach philosophy but respect the power of poetry and the story to provoke philosophical wonderment. Dillard's seemingly disconnected vignettes ask us to weave together our own experiences of individuality and generality and contemplate the paradox of evil and God. I agree with many other reviewers that this takes time to read and, most importantly, to reflect upon. It is a hybrid of many literary styles and as such, annoys or confuses some readers. We are a culture steeped in action and accumulation, not in reflection, meditation. Dillard offers us a vehicle by which to plummet our own beliefs, dogmas and souls.
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on October 16, 2001
This is the most profoundly spiritual book I've ever read. I don't know if that's what she intended, but that was the affect it had on me. I was just stunned with the breadth and the depth of it. I'm not a previous fan of Dillard's work -- this is the first book of hers I've ever read, and I didn't come to it with any preconceptions. She writes of the hard things along with the beautiful, writes as a mystic-observer in love with ALL that is. A faith as true and deep as Job's (though not a Christian one), and an eye much keener. One on a short list of life-changing books for me.
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on October 21, 2003
I wish I could THINK like Annie Dillard does, let alone WRITE like she does. How does she do it?
The great theological question of God's existence seems to be at the heart of everything she writes about, whether it's bugs or babies, glaciers or galaxies, politics or polecats, leaf mold or love letters. She takes such great risks with her writing, letting the subject matter soar on the finest of threads way out into space, far from the central point at which she began - but then, just when you think she's truly gone off course and over into some abyss from which she'll never return, she finds her way home within the writing and ends up with a gorgeous piece of writing that hangs perfectly together. I ask again: how does she do this?
I know, actually: She's a whole lot brighter than most of the rest of us, and thank God she uses her vast curiosity and even more vast intelligence to share her thoughts with us as she ruminates on the eternal questions of God, Life, Death, and the Human Predicament.
Essentially a collection of loosely woven disparate essays, For the Time Being, like all of Dillard's books, is written with lyricism, erudition, intelligence, and humor. If you like her other books, don't miss this one.
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on March 22, 1999
The need to deepen and widen our understanding of God, and a renewed awareness that in a world yearning for healing there is no room for spectatorship, Annie Dillard takes on the big questions: Who are we people? What is the worth of an individul? How can evil exist in a world created by a benevolent God? To what end were we born? In response, Dillard takes her readers on a circuitously eclectic journey among seemingly random themes--birth, numbers, China, Israel, sand, encounters, paleontology, religion--underscoring life's tragedies, mysteries and marvels. Dillard quotes widely, but for the most from Hasidic Judaism. To this reader her heavy usage of Hasidism would have carried greater authenticity coming from Elie Wiesel or Isaac Bashevis Singer. Through Dillard's stylistic pastiche of literary hopscotch, one reads the first 150 pages patiently looking for connecting links, asking: How does she pull all this together? In the final pages we learn that she is attracted to the philosophy of "panentheism," the view that sees everything simultaneously in God and that postulates a transcendent principle from which everything is derived. In summary, "God entrusts and allots to everyone an area to redeem." Writing as one who is at home with the world of natural phenomena, Dillard astonishes with data and statistics. Footnotes would have proved helpful. One is curious about her sources.
This is a provocative read--literate, iconoclastic, and courageous in facing the big questions.
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on October 31, 1999
As a writer trapped in the box of the hortatory and homiletic by publishers' demands, I look upon Annie Dillard as something close to God -- both for what she says and the way she gets to say it. This book is pure metaphor. You can never quite grasp it, and in its elusiveness it transcends thought and moves to poetry. Damn, she's good. "Think I'll light a cigarette and think." What a way to live. I'll still take Holy the Firm over this, though. Never have searing holiness and outrage at God been so beautifully intermixed. Still, I'd throw away the best of most everyone else's work to read the worst of hers. What an intellectual and spiritual treasure.
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on December 21, 1999
I've had this book in my hands since May, and still can't put it down after reading it several times through. I am an Annie Dillard fan, but not in love with everything she's written. Her attention to detail and her humor in this work is equal to or surpasses "Teaching A Stone To Talk" or "Pilgrim". Granted, it's a new style of writing, one that takes more time, but this is not a reason to quit trying, or to put others down for having the attention span to scale this mountain of thought. This is a daring work, an important work for those of us who have asked the hard questions in life and are not satisfied with what we've been handed so far. Give this book time and you'll be richly rewarded.
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on May 13, 2000
Annie Dillard has a style unique to herself. She is able to change direction of her book's subjects drastically but continue to hold the readers attention with odd, unconventional listing of thoughts and facts. Dillard takes the subjects Birth, Sand, China, Clouds, Numbers, Isreal, Encounters, Thinker, Evil, and Now; and embarks on a spiritual journey into the questions of God's omnipotance, the importance of the individual, and the innevitablility of death. The book seems to circle after a while, like having a converstation with 10 different people who each have a wealth of knowledge and statistics about their own subject. But this is a power of Dillard's style: being able to pull seperate unrelated factors all together, like a mosaic, only comprehesible as a whole work of art from a distance. I liked this book from the beginning of Dillard's description of a few children's deformation from birth. Her knowledge is impressive, expecially that of French paleontologist and theologian Teilhard de Chardin, who battles with questions of God in midst of finding ancient human remains. Dillard incorporates quotes from near and far to weave this quilt of human question and answers that remain to be enshrouded in clouds of mystery, shifting with each generation. She uses a countless number of successive statistics that will drive any reader into a deep tunnel of thought. The end will challenge anyone to continue on their own encounter with the meaning of existance.
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VINE VOICEon April 11, 2001
Annie Dillard had inhabited a place close by since PILGRIM AT TINKER CREEK.Her observations about natute and God are quirky,interesting and lovely to read. I was once at a reading of hers'{in NYC} where a member of the audience asked her" Yes, but do you really believe in God?" Dillard responded with"of course I do ,honey, do you think this is Europe?"Her ability to bring faith and reason together is extremly rare in this time when it seems to be either fundamentalism or secular humanism.In these essays, she dleves into child deformities or birth defects{an extremely difficult chapter for me to read,by the way},Israel,death,the sky{clouds} and Pere Pierre Teilhard de Chardin,Jesuit paleontologist,theologian and truly original thinker.{in a way you get the impression that Ms. Dillard finds him a kindred soul.}These are full bodied essays of a courageous thinker and believer, struggling with day to day belief while being filled with awe. A stunning collection by a superb writer and a good woman.
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on March 7, 2004
What i respect most about this work of Ms. Dillard is that she doesn't claim to know the answers to her questions, but she is asking them. This book made me think, laugh aloud and squirm uncomfortably in my seat. In today's black and white, commercial world, this book is like a breath of fresh air. There are answers to her questions, and this book gives an impetus to try to find them.
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