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by Annie Dillard

Pub Date: March 13th, 1974
ISBN: 0061233323
Publisher: Harper's Magazine Press

This is our life, these are our lighted seasons, and then we die. . . . In the meantime, in between time, we can see. . . we can work at making sense of (what) we see. . . to discover where we so incontrovertibly are. It's common sense; when you-move in, you try to learn the neighborhood." Dillard's "neighborhood" is hilly Virginia country where she lived alone, but essentially it is all those "shreds of creation" with which every human is surrounded, which she is trying to learn, to know -- from finite variations to infinite possibilities of being and meaning. A tall order and Dillard doesn't quite fill it. She is too impatient to get about the soul's adventures to stay long with an egg-laying grasshopper, or other bits of flora and fauna, and her snatches from physics and biological/metaphysical studies are this side of frivolous. However, Ms. Dillard has a great deal going for her -- in spite of some repetition of words and concepts, her prose is bright, fresh and occasionally emulates (not imitates) the Walden Master in a contemporary context: "Trees. . . extend impressively in both directions, . . . shearing rock and fanning air, doing their real business just out of reach." She has set herself no less a task than understanding emotionally, spiritually and intellectually the force of the creative extravagance of the universe in all its beauty and horhor ("There is a terrible innocence in the benumbed world of the lower animals, reducing life to a universal chomp.") Experience can be focused, and awareness sharpened, by a kind of meditative high. Thus this becomes somewhat exhausting reading, if taken in toto, but even if Dillard's reach exceeds her grasp, her sights are leagues higher than that of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea, regretfully (re her sex), the inevitable comparison.