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January 12, 2005

Once a year on January 12, apparently, how often I post something less than flattering about Annie Dillard.

I was reading Scott Rosenberg's blog on Salon this morning, and I find this quote from a 1989 Dillard essay:

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 in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.

And I think "yep, that explains it all right." I cannot lately read Dillard's work without feeling as though I have sat next to a brilliant, insane, hypercaffeinated woman on an express bus to somewhere distant, who thinks every passing thought must be shared at once.

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I picked Dillard up again a few months ago (can't remember what) and vascillated between thinking her brilliant and thinking her demented. Sometimes the two run in closely parallel universes on either side of the brainstem. I like "hypercaffeinated."

Posted by: fred1st at January 12, 2005 01:16 PM
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I'll never forgive her for "Holy the Firm" - though i know some people like it - and for passing off works of the imagination as nonfiction in Pilgrim. I think it's safe to say that she is one of those writers about whom it is impossible to be neutral.

Posted by: Dave at January 12, 2005 05:41 PM
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Well, I've read her most opaque book, "For the Time Being", and came away feeling that it was a sculpture made of an unfathomable emotion -- perhaps one that only women have, or Virginians maybe. But it was clipped, precise, sedately poetic, not what I'd call overcaffeinated. It could almost be called pretentious ...

Posted by: Jarrett at January 13, 2005 09:56 PM
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