- Paperback: 128 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (Nov. 12 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060919884
- ISBN-13: 978-0060919887
- Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 0.7 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 113 g
- Average Customer Review: 32 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #26,989 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Writing Life Paperback – Nov 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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As clear a piece of imigry as Teaching A Stone to Talk. Life is a tender piece of show not tell. Dillard explains by weaving words and art and story into a readers ear and mind and heart, and gently stitches soul into the piece.
"I do not so much write a book as sit up with it, as with a dying friend. During visiting hours, I enter its room with dread and sympathy for its many disorders. I hold its hand and hope it will get better..."
"The writer studies literature, not the world. He lives in the world; he cannot miss it. If he has ever bought a hamburger, or taken a commercial airplane flight, he spares his readers a report of his experience. He is careful of what he reads, for that is what he will write. He is careful of what he learns, because that is what he will know."
Interspersed with stories of inchworms, moths, ocean currents, artists and phantom psychotic chess opponents she weaves a fine tapestry of word upon a backdrop of seaside cabins and rain.
Regardless of the type of writing you are involved in, this book will certainly give you the inspiration to continue on what seems to be a dark and narrow road.
It is an autobiography. More, I think it is a message from one writer to another. It's like a "hey, we all go through this."
The book itself is well written. The grammatical errors irritated me at times, but it was written in a casual tone. The practical tone it was written is nice. It's more factual than "you must do this and this and this". I enjoyed the narratives: they have opinions, and hinted ideas and suggestions, but often times you as the reader get to decide.
What i found most enjoyable about this book is actually the ironic humour. It is not "hahaha" humour. It is simply interesting reading about a fellow writer's frustrations. Indeed, Dillard's self-contempt at times can be hillarious.
I would believe that this book is meant more for those who write or have written. It's something for writers to connect with each other. It's like a mountain biker talking to another mountain biker. A baseball player would not be able to fully appreciate the difficulties and the experiences.
This is a great book though. But it's got a certain audience.
Dillard's book reads like a series of journal entries, which may indeed have been its origin. Some of the entries are amusing, for example Dillard's description of her weeks-long, late-night chess game with an unknown opponent who, she briefly thinks, just might be the diaper-clad but otherwise naked baby she finds hovering around the board one evening. But some of the entries are mere poetic, well, nonsense: "The line of words is a fiber optic, flexible as wire; it illumines the path just before its fragile tip. You probe with it, delicate as a worm." The Writing Life cannot, I should think, be of any practical benefit to writers. And it is neither a "guidebook" nor a particularly inspiring piece of prose, however much the blurbists may rave. But it is intermittently interesting, and, after all, it is a very quick read.
However, for those who are looking for a little pick-me-up, Dillard's book is ideal. This book would also interest avid readers who would like to see inside the mind of a writer and get some understanding of what the writing process can really be like.
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