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The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard

Second paragraph of third chapter:
The cabin was a single small room near the water. Its walls were shrunken planks, not insulated; in January, February, and March, it was cold. There were two small metal beds in the room, two cupboards, some shelves over a little counter, a wood stove, and a table under a window, where I wrote. The window looked out on a bit of sandflat overgrown with thick, varicolored mosses; there were a few small firs where the sandflat met the cobble beach; and there was the water: Puget Sound, and all the sky over it and all the other wild islands in the distance under the sky. It was very grand. But you get used to it. I don't much care where I work. I don't notice things. The door used to blow open and startle me witless. I did, however, notice the cold.
I had not particularly heard of Annie Dillard, but I really liked this book about how to write - or maybe more accurately, how she writes, how she creates the time and space for her to organise her own thoughts, her interactions with other people and with nature, with some repetition of themes but also real consistency. There's then a final chapter about the death of the stunt pilot Dave Rahm, which seems to be included as a worked example, and works OK even if a bit inconsistent with the rest of the book.

It's therefore a bit weird to read a statement on Dillard's website by her husband, informing us that The Writing Life is "a book she repudiates except for the last chapter, the true story of stunt pilot Dave Rahm". It rather spoils my enjoyment to know that the author has allowed the book to stay on the market even if she doesn't believe in it herself any more, and rather violates the spirit of writerly integrity that she seems to advocate in the book. If you are prepared to overlook that, you can get it here.

The Writing Life was my top unread book by a woman, and my top non-fiction book. Next on the former pile is The Bastard of Istanbul, by Elif Şafak; next on the latter is My Century, by Günther Grass.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
eglantine_br
Sep. 29th, 2019 12:19 am (UTC)
I remember reading Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, back in the late 70's. I read it over and over. It showed me something new about how writing could be. You don't need a plot, or even a theme. Beauty comes without those.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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