Annie Dillard, THE ABUNDANCE

The Abundance: Narrative Essays Old and NewThe Abundance: Narrative Essays Old and New by Annie Dillard

A photograph of Annie Dillard appears on the back flap of the dust jacket for The Abundance. Annie Dillard has a Pulitzer Prize. The photograph should show her with a contemplative expression on her face as she stares off into the distance. Instead, the photograph shows a woman with a broad, toothy smile and twinkling eyes that are looking directly into the camera lens.

If you met that woman at a social gathering or at coffee hour after a church service you might think even before she speaks that she has something wonderful that she wants to share with you. We meet that woman in The Abundance. She has many wonderful things to share, an abundance of wonderful things, if you will.

The Abundance is a collection of previously published essays. They display the gift that Annie Dillard has for being present and observant in the midst of the most mundane and the most stimulating events, then relating those events in language that makes us want to experience them for ourselves. Well, maybe we don’t want to experience all of them; some are harsh and tragic. But some are laugh-out-loud funny. Some are described as if they were hallucinations. Some indeed may be hallucinations.

Two essays in particular are worth the price of admission. “Total Eclipse” from Teaching a Stone to Talk is the first essay in this collection. It was reprinted in Summer 2017 in The Atlantic Monthly as the United States awaited an eclipse whose totality traversed much of the country. “Being Chased” from An American Childhood is reminiscent of Dylan Thomas’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.”

The foreword by Goeff Dyer is also worth reading even if you never read forewords. Dyer mentions Eudora Welty, who reviewed Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Welty admitted occasionally not knowing what Annie Dillard was talking about. (p. xix) Dyer writes “On the humor front it helps, also, that Dillard’s pretty much a fruitcake.” (p. xviii) This comes after he quotes “Total Eclipse”: “The mind wants the world to return its love, or its awareness; the mind wants to know all the world, and all eternity, even God. The mind’s sidekick, however, will settle for two eggs over easy.” (p. xviii)

Finally, from “A Writer in the World,” which originally appeared in The Writer’s Life, we get this glimpse into the generous, brilliant, eccentric mind of the smiling woman on the back dust jacket flap.

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. Don’t hoard what seems to be good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The very impulse to save something good for a better place 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.” (p. 115)

Thanks for stopping by!

Pat

 

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