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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
"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.
What can I say? Annie Dillard is one of my very favourite writers, beginning with "Pilgrim at Tinker's Creek. Read morePublished 12 months ago by SusannahReads
I bought this book as it was highly praised by another author whose book I was reading. I enjoy writing, but Annie is way beyond me so I felt disappointed - not saying it is her... Read morePublished on April 9 2013 by Grace VB
If like me, you thought this title held real pragmatic promise for aspiring writers, you may be disappointed, as I was, to reach the end but feeling not much the wiser for doing... Read morePublished on Dec 12 2003 by Ian Jupp
Do not read this book if you expect that your motor will be awakened for the first time; look elsewhere if you've not been an exhausted writer, humiliated in your attempts to lay... Read morePublished on Dec 11 2003 by David Stith
If someone of Annie Dillard's stature can write like this while claiming to abhor the whole process, then there's hope for all of us writers. Read morePublished on April 2 2003 by Peggy Vincent
Above all else, this book is a wonderful parable about living. In it, writing is a metaphor for life. Read morePublished on Nov. 12 2002 by R. Peavey