I finished A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek today. I’ve been reading it for 2.5 years. It is an intense book. I cannot imagine what the process of writing it was like, to succumb so completely to observation and narration of natural life in all its intricacies.
There are many dog eared pages where I stopped and read a line 4 or more times (most lines I had to read 2 times to take them in completely, which is why it took me over 2 years to read the book). About half way through reading it I remember commenting on her style of writing to my Mom who remarked, “That book changed the way I thought about writing!”. Even then I understood why, but finishing I understand it even more. She not only writes so wholly what she is observing, but takes you on a journey through the historical, metaphysical and emotionally connections to the moment, action, animal, insect or natural occurrence. It is intense. I kind of want to go back and read it again from the beginning, right now. A family friend once said she wished that books weren’t bound so that you knew when they ended. She wants them on a circular binding so that you don’t know when the ending is coming. I always like to know where the end is, the results oriented person in me likes to know, but with this book a circular binding would work because once you get to the end you just want to go back for more. Reading it once is like completing boot camp. At the end you’re finally prepared to read it.
On a final note, in reading Annie’s notes about writing A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek she mentions how she wanted to use a pseudonym or just A. Dillard so that her writing could be taken more seriously and not discredited for being a female’s voice. For the first few chapters of the book, I thought I was reading a male character’s narrative. When I found out it was indeed Dillard’s own experiences as a pilgrim in Virgina I was surprised, and pleased and if I’m being honest, more invested. So although she has stated she regrets using her name, I was pleased to know who my narrator was.
If you are prepared, I highly recommend you pick up A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.