That’s Inspiration!: Rereading Annie Dillard

Melissa Holbrook Pierson in the Los Angeles Review of Books:

ScreenHunter_1962 May. 22 20.32Of the thousand images stored in my mind’s archives, there is only one of me holding a book. The result of what they call a flashbulb memory, where a shock imprints every detail of a scene on the mind forever, it permits me to view a single moment in my dorm at high school: were it not for the book, I would have forgotten everything — the peculiar darkness that used to fall across only half the room, its twin closets, the honey color of their wood, the fact that my hair reached the bottom of my shoulder blades in 1974. The book I hold, frozen in mid-turn, isPilgrim at Tinker Creek.

Pilgrim blew apart what I knew about writing at age 16: up until I read it, my notions were based on the usual pack of novels, poetry, philosophy, and exposition, all of which stayed neatly in their categories. This book, though, bled across lines (sometimes quite literally; it included plenty of death and injury): it refused to be held to one purpose. It coursed like a river swollen with snowmelt in spring from thing to thing, from inner life to outer. Or, rather, it found the edge where mind meets world. Annie Dillard sang this line, loud and imperative.

I’d thought the stuff I had spent my youth doing was something I’d come up with all on my own, and (to the mind of a self-doubting girl) must therefore be unimportant; but now I’d found someone who made a literature of wandering alone in the woods, watching, listening, poking at flora and fauna, describing views and pieces of nature, and trying to make a whole of her experience.

More here.