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Living by Fiction Paperback – Bargain Price, July 20, 1988


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Paperback, Bargain Price, July 20, 1988
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Revised edition (July 20, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060915447
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060915445
  • ASIN: B003A02YA6
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,142,021 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Living by Fiction is a stimulating book, one of those in which quality of thought and felicity of prose seem consequences of one another." -- Vance Bourjaily, New York Times Book Review

"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

Annie Dillard is the author of ten books, including the Pulitzer Prize-winner Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, as well as An American Childhood, The Living, and Mornings Like This. She is a member of the Academy of Arts and Letters and has received fellowship grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Born in 1945 in Pittsburgh, Dillard attended Hollins College in Virginia. After living for five years in the Pacific Northwest, she returned to the East Coast, where she lives with her family.

More About the Author

Annie Dillard is the author of ten books, including the Pulitzer Prize-winner Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, as well as An American Childhood, The Living, and Mornings Like This. She is a member of the Academy of Arts and Letters and has received fellowship grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Born in 1945 in Pittsburgh, Dillard attended Hollins College in Virginia. After living for five years in the Pacific Northwest, she returned to the East Coast, where she lives with her family.

Customer Reviews

Annie Dillard's command of our shared language is truly amazing and her vision distinctive.
Sandra S. Berns
What is sufficient and valuable is that the art object presents the reader with an interpretation.
Jon Linden
As she says in the introduction, she "...attempts to do unlicensed metaphysics in a teacup."
John P. Jones III

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jon Linden VINE VOICE on October 21, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Living By Fiction" is in essence a treatise by Annie Dillard that attempts to interpret art, and thereby includes fiction as art, and as an interpretation. The book is well constructed and the sentences are beautifully crafted. The treatise starts by discussing in vast detail, the styles and forms of writing. Then it concentrates on "modernistic" fiction. This type of fiction takes numerous and varied forms.

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.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 2, 1998
Format: Paperback
I thought Ms. Dillard distinguished herself with this literary piece of literary criticism. She got into some pretty deep and convoluted places with this book, but I felt that every point was well-made and well-taken. I feel the book is an education in itself. Loved it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John P. Jones III TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 18, 2011
Format: Paperback
... the subject phrase grates like chalk pulled across an English classroom's black board. At least for me. It conjures up images of writing critical papers on a school-assignment novel, struggling with concepts like symbolism, and at more advanced levels, "deconstructionism." All in an effort to get the "right" answer, which was how the teacher wanted us to "see" a particular novel. I still remember giving a verbal "book report" to the class on Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell (P.S.), and the "right" answer was to assure the teacher that drug use was bad. In the sciences the "right" answer seemed to come easier, and certainly more objectively. Which was why I only "had" to take two years of English in college, which may be a key reason why I still read.

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.
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Format: Paperback
A friend to whom I once commended this small volume replied, "Dillard. TINKER CREEK. Nope. She takes forever to get to the point." Maybe so. But as Greyhound used to brag, "Getting there is half the fun." And simply getting there is the intriguing subject of my favorite Dillard essay published in TEACHING A STONE TO TALK (Harper & Row, 1982). LIVING BY FICTION is aimed first at readers and writers of fiction, but more broadly at artists and art audiences, and finally (if anyone remains excluded) at those who wonder if the world has meaning and if such meaning might be discerned. Like any hiking trail worth the walk, Dillard's path will lead you through unexpected swamps and over mythic mountains. You will visit Bucky Fuller's epistemology and Kubla Khan's dome (which, come to think of it, is an invertible tour through Bucky's domes and Khan's epistemology). What does a whale mean? Does an unpublished, unread novel in an attic trunk contribute to the structure of the universe? This book may anger, intrigue, puzzle or delight. It will not disappoint.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Knox on March 13, 2010
Format: Paperback
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. I found Dillard's investigation into the meaning of literary art rather dry and shallow. She sought out the most exemplary in literature: Nabokov, Borges, Marquez, and asks what makes contemporary art work. How does she conclude? Basically with an existential shrug of the shoulders. I was often chastised in graduate school for writing a research paper with too large a thesis, and although at the time I disagreed, now I understand exactly what my professors meant. I finished this book with little more than a bunch of loose juxtapositions. Meanwhile, Dillard's sparkling style will cause me to go back to her again and again. Her writing is always enjoyable to read. Even when the content is lacking.
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