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The Writing Life Paperback – November 12, 2013
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Annie Dillard has spent a lot of time in remote, bare-bones shelters doing something she claims to hate: writing. Slender though it is, The Writing Life richly conveys the torturous, tortuous, and in rare moments, transcendent existence of the writer. Even for Dillard, whose prose is so mellifluous as to seem effortless, the act of writing can seem a Sisyphean task: "When you write," she says, "you lay out a line of words.... Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead end, or have you located the real subject? You will know tomorrow or this time next year." Amid moving accounts of her own writing (and life) experiences, Dillard also manages to impart wisdom to other writers, wisdom having to do with passion and commitment and taking the work seriously. "One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place.... Something more will arise for later, something better." And, if that is not enough, "Assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients," she says. "That is, after all, the case.... What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?"
This all makes The Writing Life seem a dense, tough read, but that is not the case at all. Dillard is, after all, human, just like the rest of us. During one particularly frantic moment, four cups of coffee and not much writing down, Dillard comes to a realization: "Many fine people were out there living, people whose consciences permitted them to sleep at night despite their not having written a decent sentence that day, or ever." --Jane Steinberg
From Publishers Weekly
"In this collection of short essays, the author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and An American Childhood probes the sorcery that levitates her own writing, discussing with clear eye and wry wit how, where and why she writes," said PW .
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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She prefers a place without distraction. A room with `no view' is preferable. She does not even have too many basic heating or air conditioning requirements. She will get by. She finds a room over a garage or a pine shed without out any windows just perfect. No distractions.
Philosophically she talks about the value of the reader knowing the lengths to which the author goes to create what they do. She questions the relevance of that information. And throughout, she discusses the position the author has; the removed and yet constrained perspective that the writer possesses in creating the work they are writing.
Finally, she talks about the author having the power to discuss extremes. Conceptually, the idea of "Absolutes" being the focus of all non-fiction writing is mentioned. The author's ability to set the tone, the mood and the results are discussed, but with the caveat that the story sometimes leads the author, and not the other way around.
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Unlike a how-to guide full of lectures and quick fixes, Dillard writes...Read more