Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Book Review: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

How a few decades changes a person. When assigned to read this book in high school, my friends made fun of its intense, detailed, natural focus, and, conforming to the non-conformity, I joined right in. Even so, there were images I never forgot: a cat's bloody footprints and a frog sucked hollow by a waterbug. And that was just in the first few chapters.

Now I've returned to finish it for good and find that Annie Dillard has produced a readable, vivid book of what can only be called natural theology. Her willingness to look at the harsh parts of nature unflinchingly, even with an appropriate understated fascination, is the bitter streak that balances the talk of balance and harmony. The book hasn't changed in twenty years, so it must be me.

I wonder how Dillard's occasional God-talk sounds to someone who doesn't come from the Christian viewpoint. I would like to see a new Atheist response to someone who would take the time to read this book. (Alas, they don't seem to have time to turn from the science to something like this.) Also, I'd like to see a secular science writer who can describe nature with the force and power of Dillard. Haven't seen it yet. Maybe Loren Eiseley comes close, and he's even quoted in this, but his work is much more placid than the energy that pulses through Dillard's prose.

It's too early to review this book -- I just finished it and my head's still reeling -- but it was worth reading slowly, as summer changed from early to late, only a few pages at a time. It's that rich and multi-layered. I'd like to know what others think of it, so comment below if you have ...

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