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151 of 155 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Playing Seriously, Living Lightly, Beautifully Writing
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...
Published on September 18, 2001 by James R. Mccall

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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Amicable yet aimless stroll through Virginia's Blue Ridge
Dillard describes herself as "a wanderer with a background in theology and a penchant for quirky facts." Published thirty years ago, "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" is a pleasant if somewhat aimless journal that combines a rather jejune spirituality with lots of those "quirky facts"--anecdotes and observations that flavor the accounts of her wanderings through the fields,...
Published on February 7, 2004 by D. Cloyce Smith


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151 of 155 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Playing Seriously, Living Lightly, Beautifully Writing, September 18, 2001
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. Part of its appeal is her special mix of jokiness and vernacular combined with high-toned thinking and literary reference, her gee-whiz attitude toward outrageous natural facts always butting in. Part of it comes from her sheer likeability. But all that aside, words do her bidding, and always I find myself pausing and smiling at her mastery. She wonders about beauty, and reacts to beauty. She also, here, has created it.
"Nature is, above all, profligate. Don't believe them when they tell you how economical and thrifty nature is, whose leaves return to the soil. Wouldn't it be cheaper to leave them on the tree in the first place? This deciduous business alone is a radical scheme, the brainchild of a deranged manic-depressive with limitless capital. Extravagance! Nature will try anything once...No form is too gruesome, no behavior too grotesque. If you're dealing with organic compounds, then let them combine. If it works, if it quickens, then set it clacking in the grass; there's always room for one more; you ain't so handsome yourself. This is a spendthrift economy; though nothing is lost, all is spent." (chapter 4)
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137 of 144 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My Review, May 1, 2000
By 
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." Her aesthetic sense of word choice described the monarch butterfly, "A monarch at rest looks like a fleck of tiger, stilled and wide-eyed." We notice though that while she uses such
descriptive tone, it is more heavily applied during the via negativa section. The most enjoyable sections for me were her beginning statements, which were filled with stories. Her old tom cat, life's hidden treasures, and even the history of the starlings can be found in the opening paragraphs of each chapter. This catches the attention of the reader, because it is written in an intimate tone, and it prepares them for what lies ahead. Such stories or memories usually reoccur in the end, bringing her point full-circle. Dillard's perspective on religion is questionable. She appears to favor both religion and creationism throughout the book, yet she never sides with one more so than the other. She uses biblical references to Jacob's cattle, a scripture from the Koran, but then also personifies nature, giving it actions of its own free will. She knows stories from the Bible, yet she knows just as much about evolution. A pro-creation/ Christian perhaps? This _was_ written during the 1970's. Perhaps Annie Dillard and Henry David Thoreau do have the same writing-style. Personally I found Thoreau too redundant and long-winded, while Dillard is more natural. One can almost hear her talking; her stories included in the book as reference to a pervious statement are filled with the tone of her voice, although we have never heard her speak. That's a quality she has, making the readers feel as if they have known her for years after reading the book. So why should someone who doesn't take AP English III read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek? Simple. It makes you look at life differently. It gives you a new respect for nature, and a new knowledge of insects and animals. It's good material for anyone doing a report on Eskimos. But overall, it will open your mind to a philosophical side of nature.
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108 of 115 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exceptional guide for opening eyes to the strangeness and wonder of nature, November 6, 2007
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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65 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthy winner of the Pulitzer, 1975, September 21, 2003
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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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unparalleled imagery and use of language, August 13, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Three by Annie Dillard: The Writing Life, An American Childhood, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (Paperback)
For those who believe a declarative sentence in the Hemingway style is the nadir of literary style, Annie is not for you. For those who believe elegance of language enhances the reading experience, Annie is a joy and a treasure. Her images and allusions are the rich stuff of observation and imagination, poured straight and undiluted on the page. I'm sure she would say that this makes the act of writing sound far too easy (read "Writing Life" for a lucid rebuttal to any such misapprehension); I'm insanely glad that she endures the agonies of a writer to bring gifts like these remarkable books to us. Thank you, Annie.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Amicable yet aimless stroll through Virginia's Blue Ridge, February 7, 2004
By 
Dillard describes herself as "a wanderer with a background in theology and a penchant for quirky facts." Published thirty years ago, "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" is a pleasant if somewhat aimless journal that combines a rather jejune spirituality with lots of those "quirky facts"--anecdotes and observations that flavor the accounts of her wanderings through the fields, meadows, and woods surrounding her home. Monitoring a flood caused by a hurricane, stalking an unwary muskrat, tracking the life cycle of a mantis--little escapes her attention, and she supplements her explorations with fascinating tidbits she has gathered from her readings. Although the book ostensibly cycles through the seasons, from winter through summer and back again, her recollections are randomly presented, if organized very loosely by theme.
I'll add my two cents to the Dillard vs. Thoreau debate. While many readers--especially high school students--don't see much of a resemblance (mostly because Dillard is so much easier to read), Dillard herself invites comparison by mentioning Thoreau's work half a dozen times. Her style, like Thoreau's, is informal, and her powers of observation are keen. Yet, in my view, there is one important difference between the two writers: Dillard appears to have no interest with the human issues that preoccupied Thoreau: race relations, political activism, egalitarianism--and even environmentalism. In this book especially, Dillard rarely strays from "nature writing," with the exception of a few short passages pondering the role of the "creator" and the place of humans in the universe and one ill-conceived section in which she mangles quantum physics in metaphorical support of some insights on "mysticism."
Many readers are enamored by Dillard's prose style, and I will confess to bafflement on this point. All too often, she abandons understated lyricism for Hemingway-inspired simplicity: "It is winter proper; the cold weather, such as it is, has come to stay." "It is early March." "It is spring." "Now it is May." "It's summer... It's summer now: the heat is on. It's summer now all summer long." "In September the birds were quiet." As with Hemingway's work, Dillard's writing can sometimes be elegant in its simplicity, but just as often, I found that she had forsaken the realm of the simple for the simplistic (and even the simple-minded). The paucity of her own prose becomes most apparent when she quotes or paraphrases other authors (such as Edwin Way Teale, whose book on insects provided much of the source material for the mesmerizing episodes in her chapter on "Fecundity").
Dillard confesses that she is "not a scientist"--and she is certainly not a philosopher. Her abstract musings are unsophisticated; the chapter on "The Present," for example, is notable for its fuzziness: "What I call innocence is the spirit's unself-conscious state at any moment of pure devotion to any object. It is at once a receptiveness and total concentration." During passages like these, Dillard is no longer serving up pop metaphysics, she's unabashedly belaboring the obvious.
More than a few readers and critics have accused Dillard's works of being hollow and pointless, but I'm not sure I would go that far; her books do contain some beautiful and consequential descriptions. Yet, ultimately, it's a matter of taste: I prefer the meatier, methodic, thesis-driven, grounded works of such writers as Rachel Carson, John McPhee, Diane Ackerman, and (yes) Thoreau to Dillard's sauntering diaries.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I keep coming back to this book..., July 11, 1999
By A Customer
I first read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek as an undergraduate at Southwest Missouri State University, in an exposition class. I loved it then and I love it now. I am currently taking a graduate seminar on approaches to teaching literature and have been given the opportunity to design my "dream course." Annie Dillard's Pulitzer Prize-winning literary journey is at the top of my list. I am disappointed to read the few comments from readers who didn't enjoy this book--I suspect they have not taken the time to fully explore Dillard's vision. The work is rich with details that are not just there for the sake of description. It is a carefully crafted prose narrative that delves into theology, existentialism, transcendentalism, and natural history, addressing the relationship between man and God. I would recommend reading Linda L. Smith's book, entitled Annie Dillard (one of Twayne's United States Authors series), for an enlightening analysis of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and other works by the author. If you are willing to open your eyes and mind wide enough, you will surely discover Pilgrim at Tinker Creek's treasures.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A student's humble opinion, April 19, 2001
By 
whitney s kimball (athens, tn United States) - See all my reviews
I am a junior in high school, and my AP English class was recently assigned to read Annie Dillard's, A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. We had just completed another nature novel, humbly entitled, Walden: or Life in the Woods, by Henry David Thoreau. To be fair, any book would have been interesting compared to Walden. However, I was pleasently surprised when we began Pilgrim. Annie Dillard has a style all her own. Nearly every chapter begins with a personal narrative, then moves smoothly into philisophical ponderings concerning nature, and finally comes back full circle as if to answer her personal quarry. She writes as a ballerina dances: with poise, grace, and boldness. Dillard's Tnker Creek may become, in the eyes of the reader, paradise. A favorite passage of mine can be found in the first chapter:"Mountains are giant, restful, absorbent. You can heave your spirit into a mountain and the mountain will keep it, folded, and not throw it back as some creeks will. The creeks are the world with all its stimulus and beauty; I live there. But the mountains are home." I encourage anyone with an inquistive mind to read this book. You will be fulfilled.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book of the 20th Century, December 22, 1999
If I were stuck on a desert island and could have only one book with me for the rest of my life, it would be Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Dillard is one of those extremely rare people who is not only a writer, but who is a philosopher. We can teach philosophers to write well but we cannot teach writers to think. A priceless gift to the world, Dillard was born both a profound thinker and a phenomenally gifted writer. If you are looking for light reading, this is not the book to pick up. Neither is this a book for the faint-of-heart. I have read it many times and can never read more than a chapter a day due to it's intensity and density. It takes time to process and savor the depth and beauty of each sentence. Your dreams will echo the unique and picturesque images invoked by Dillard's writing. Dillard's profound insights concerning humanity and our relationship with one another, the world around us and God will blow your mind wide open and leave you awe-struck and inspired. This book has changed my life and the lives of the many friends to whom I have given copies.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dillard's images smell of nature., January 5, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Three by Annie Dillard: The Writing Life, An American Childhood, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (Paperback)
Dillard's polyphony of images creates a roundness and depth unfathomed by most modern nature writers. Overlapping images brings breath to observation. Her's are not images of nature upon the dissection table, but nature alive and exuding itself. Her observations pierce the bone and marrow of nature revealing the transcendence and sacrament that is man's experience with nature. Her writings give off the scent of true experience, true life and true thought. Dillard is quite possibly the premiere essayist of our period.
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Three by Annie Dillard: The Writing Life, An American Childhood, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
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