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Living by Fiction Paperback – Bargain Price, July 20, 1988
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"Everyone who timidly, bombastically, reverently, scholastically--even fraudulently--essays to 'live the life of the mind' should read this book. It's elegant and classy, like caviar and champagne, and like these two items, it's over much too soon." -- Carolyn See, Los Angeles Times
"Stimulating." -- -- New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
Annie distinguishes between styles of writing. She does this very much by example. She uses the work of many, many authors as her examples and illustrations of the different manners in which a writer can craft a work. Specifically, she describes works of fiction. After detailing these different styles and their characteristics, she then turns to the purpose of fiction as a subcategory of art.
She posits that art is an interpretation. It is the artist's perspective on the relationship between something in the universe and a representation of that vision of the item. Her analysis inevitably leads her to state that art and religion are the modes by which people explain and interpret the unexplainable. Art produces an interpretation of a vision that is meant for others to see.
The interpretation, interestingly enough, is in fact non-existent without the reader and the critic to observe. While opining that fiction needs readers and critics to be interpreted, the interpretation is the very purpose of the creation. Without the reader and the critic, the work does not really exist. It exists in form, but not in value. The work is a creation that only carries a message if someone reads it; and more so if someone such as a critic helps us to interpret it.Read more ›
Annie Dillard is best known to me for her excellent Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (Harper Perrennial Modern Classics) and An American Childhood. My appreciation of these works helped me overcome my natural aversion to the "subject" of literature. And I was richly rewarded. She wrote this book almost 30 years ago, when she was about 35, and just her erudition is dazzling (and humbling). Not only had she read so many of the major and minor contemporary writers, but she can deftly compare their strengths and weaknesses. There is Carlos Fuentes, Marcel Proust, James Agee, Nabokov, Borges and on and on. As she says in the introduction, she "...attempts to do unlicensed metaphysics in a teacup.Read more ›
[page 11] This is, ultimately, a book about the world. It inquires about the world's meaning. It attempts to do unlicensed metaphysics in a teacup. The teacup at hand, in this case, is contemporary fiction.
Why read fiction to think about the world? You may, like most of us most of the time, read fiction for other things. You may read fiction to enjoy the multiplicity and dazzle of the vivid objects it presents to the imagination; to hear its verbal splendor and admire its nimble narrative; to enter lives not your own; to feel, on one hand, the solemn stasis and immutability of the work as enclosed art object -- beginning and ending the same way every time you read it, as though a novel were a diagram inscribed forever under the vault of heaven -- and to feel, on the other hand, the plunging force of time compressed in its passage, and that compressed passage like a river's pitch crowded with scenes and scenery and actions and characters enlarged and rushing headlong down together. You may, I say, enjoy fiction for these sensations and turn to nonfiction for thought.
What a magnificent sentence, the penultimate one of the above passage! She uses this sentence to set up the last sentence, but her dichotomy between fiction and nonfiction is belied by her own skillful evocation of sensations in her ever-thoughtful nonfiction, such as Holy the Firm.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
a very wise intelligent book that could be read numerous times.
the author has marvelous insight and is writing from her head and soul and heart.
Annie Dillard goes deep and at the same time light which makes her essays so invigorating.
She doesn't hesitate to review and provide research about the many facets of her... Read more
In this volume of linked essays, Annie Dillard attempts an apologia for fiction and mounts an impassioned argument for its importance in our lives. Read morePublished on February 7, 2013 by meeah
I'd consider myself a fairly well rounded reader, but unfortunately, I just couldn't handle this text. Read morePublished on October 11, 2012 by Matt Chapman
Did you ever read the essays of Susan Sontag and suffer the realization that she knows everything and you know nothing? Read morePublished on April 30, 2012 by adorian
When I was a student at the University of Iowa, studying poetry writing in the Undergraduate Poetry Workshop, Marvin Bell read an excerpt from this book. Read morePublished on January 12, 2011 by Tale-wagger
I'm a fan of Annie Dillard. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is one of my favorites. Living by Fiction is just as sharp, just as honest, and yet it's less curious, less humble. Read morePublished on March 13, 2010 by jen knox
Amazing, magical! Annie Dillard's command of our shared language is truly amazing and her vision distinctive. Read morePublished on April 15, 2008 by Sandra S. Berns