REVIEW of PILGRIM AT TINKER CREEK by ANNIE DILLARD
Harper Perennial Modern Classics
Reprinted June 12, 2007
The precision of individual words, the vitality of metaphor, the sheer profusion of sources, the vivid sensory and cerebral impressions all combine to make Pilgrim at Tinker Creek something extravagant and extraordinary. --Kirsten Backstrom, 500 Great Books by Women
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is a series of essays that combines scientific observation, philosophy, daily thoughts, and deeper introspection with glorious prose. --500 Great Books by Women
The book is a form of meditation, written with headlong urgency, about seeing....A reader's heart must go out to a young writer with a sense of wonder so fearless and unbridled. --Eudora Welty, New York Times Book Review
In “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” Annie Dillard reveals a whole world most of us never pay attention to, though she’s only exploring the property around her West Virginian home. Dillard doesn’t look out her kitchen window and observe, “Oh, it’s a sunny day;” she looks out the window and notices the deliberateness of the nest a jay has been working on since Thursday, the condensation on the wild Indian paintbrush, and the tracks left by a teenaged muskrat.
Combining her personal observations with her readings in scientific journals, literature, and most importantly the Bible, Annie Dillard develops her own philosophy of life and her own picture of the Creator. “A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” explores the delightful (monarch butterflies and muskrats) to the not-so-delightful (parasites and leeches), but she does so with a childlike curiosity, which helps readers to look at each creature with new eyes.
Our North American culture has distanced us somewhat from nature. Our homes get tighter and tighter in an attempt to save energy and keep out pollution. And we don’t walk much anymore unless we’re trying to burn calories. Dillard’s daily walks are inspiring and not for any goal except for learning and living. Her inquisitive mind turns a simple walk into an expedition, a mud puddle into an ecosystem, a beaver dam into architecture.
Dillard makes pilgrimages toward nature and hence, toward the Creator. Each small creature, at home in this world in its own right, is fascinating and tells worlds about her surroundings, her life, and even herself.
I guarantee you that you’ll see the world differently after you read this book. You’ll notice small things, like ants and moss, that you would have stepped on without a thought before, and you’ll see the world with more probing eyes. Let Dillard help round out your world view.