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Three by Annie Dillard: The Writing Life, An American Childhood, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek Paperback – November 21, 1990

3.9 out of 5 stars 413 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Annie Dillard, winner of a 2014 National Humanities Medal, is the author of many works of nonfiction, including An American Childhood and Teaching a Stone to Talk, as well as the novels The Living and The Maytrees.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (November 21, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060920645
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060920647
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (413 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #260,643 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I read this book every ten years or so. It may well be my favorite; it's right up there, anyway. (At my age, picking a favorite book is dangerous: I've probably forgotten about half the strong candidates.) It is, if you will, a connected series of "nature" essays. Each one is strong, and can stand alone, but all are bound by many threads into a larger whole.

Annie Dillard moved to Tinker Creek, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, in her mid-twenties (or, at any rate, this book achieved final published form when she was twenty-nine). Like Thoreau, she came to the woods to "keep a meteorological journal of the mind". Indeed, "Walden" is the model: a person of reflective tendency steps out of the stream of life, as it were, to go to the woods, just to see what he or she can see. It turns out that one's own mind is a large part of the scenery when one gets away from the rough-and-tumble of society. Big mysteries are at stake here; it is somehow appropriate that looking with all attention at minute creatures and giving oneself over momentarily to ephemeral events provide clues. Why is nature cruel? Why is there beauty? Could these be related?
I put it baldly, but these and other questions are more the expression on her writing's face than the subject of it. There are details, and funny descriptions, and a rifling through the wonders of her library of naturalists. But, always, there is a person doing all this: walking, having a sandwich, creeping up on a copperhead for a closer look (after patting her pocket to make sure the snakebite kit is there), or just lying in bed remembering a horrifying or glorious experience of that particular day, in the woods, on the banks of Tinker Creek.
Have I mentioned the quality of the writing? It's glorious.
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Format: Paperback
I was assigned to read Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek for my AP English III class. We had just finished reading Henry David Thoreau's Walden, or Life In The Woods a few weeks prior, and our teacher had told us that Dillards writing style was similar to Thoreau's. Now, I'm not a big Thoreau fan (as my test grade proves), so this was not consoling to me. Over spring break I picked up the book and began to read it. She starts simply "I used to have a cat, an old fighting tom, who would jump through the open window by my head in the middle of the night and land on my chest." From that sentence on, I was hooked. There are two parts to this book, a via positiva, and a via negativa. The beginning is filled with life, positive imagery, and numerous quotes from Thoreau and van Gough. Dillard covers her perspectives on Heaven and earth, seeing, winter, and "the fixed" in this section using such qualities as listed before. The via negativa begins somewhere in
chapter five or six. It creeps in, slowly taking over the positive images and feelings, until you finally find that you are reading about children abusing newts in a state park, or caterpillars walking in the same circle around the same vase for seven full days, because their leader was taken away without their knowledge. Death is a reoccurring theme here. A main question in my class was what happened to make her change styles? Was it planned, or was it the effect of some event--the death of a friend or loved one perhaps? Either way, we read on through the spring and summer, and into the fall. She leads us into a flood, where she says, "I like crossing the dam. If I fall, I might not get up again...I face this threat every time I cross the dam, and it is always exhilarating.
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2 Comments 197 of 206 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
Length: 3:01 Mins
I've been meaning to try my hand at video reviews ever since they were announced, but this is my first. It was fun to make, and turned out to be a nice way to practice shooting and editing. My hope is that this short video may inspire some to pick up and read this remarkable book.

The footage in the video is obviously not from Tinker Creek, but from my own "backyard" and surrounding areas in Saint Petersburg, Florida. I captured the images using the new Flip Ultra Video Camcorder, and edited them using Apple's iMovie. The music (perhaps a bit cheesy) was composed using samples from Apple's GarageBand software. All quotations are from Dillard's book. Enjoy!
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Format: Paperback
It took me a long time to get around to reading Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and I�m actually glad I waited; I feel better able to appreciate all its nuances at my present age. Annie Dillard�s lovely book focuses on her experiences living at the edge of Tinker Creek in Virginia�s Blue Ridge mountains. It�s a lyrical ode to nature and also a meditation on our ability - or inability - to appreciate the natural world that surrounds us. For a book this thoughtful and thought-provoking, it�s interesting that it�s at times both very funny and very violent.
This is a good book to keep on your bedside table and read in 50-page spurts between reading other books. It lends itself to thoughtful musing and shouldn�t be raced through at one long reading. Colorful anecdotes (about such things as the sexual habits of the praying mantis) are interspersed with questioning our ability to stay truly within the moment, to achieve ultimate awareness of our surroundings.
Dillard, a consummate writer�s writer, can be both romantic and irreverent. She rhapsodizes at one moment, then at the next writes, �Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly; insects, it seems, gotta do one horrible thing after another.�
You gotta love it. And if you do, you gotta go right out and buy An American Childhood, an absolutely wonderful memoir of her youth in � get this! � Pittsburg. It�s living proof that a really good writer can make a stunning memoir out of a pretty mundane childhood.
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Three by Annie Dillard: The Writing Life, An American Childhood, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
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