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Teaching a stone to ta...
Annie Dillard
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Teaching a stone to talk: expeditions and encounters

4.21 of 5 stars 4.21  ·  rating details  ·  2,931 ratings  ·  216 reviews
Here, in this compelling assembly of writings, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Dillard explores the world of natural facts and human meanings.
177 pages
Published July 6th 1984 by Pan Books (first published January 1st 1982)
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Every time I read Annie Dillard I become more responsible. In general. Her words are purposeful, she addresses sorrow, beauty and terror with nouns and adjectives that, if you aren't careful, look like every other noun and adjective you have ever read. But this isn't so. There is not a wasted syllable. Read about the Deer at Provenance, a story about a young fawn tied to a tree, resigning to the despair of its own death, and the people that circle around, quietly, and watch. And then read how sh ...more
Thomas Watson
Reading Dillard is like watching a figure skater. You don't really understand or appreciate what you've just experienced until you try to walk across an icy sidewalk.
Jeremy Forstadt
Annie Dillard is one of the most satisfying essayists I know. Although I am not, generally, a reader of nature studies, Dillard's essays seem just perfect to me. If I had a single criticism, it would be that she generally ties in a theme or moral to her story to the extent that it would almost seems forced , but the language is so beautifully descriptive and the resolutions so elegant, that I am willing to forgive her for it.

In "Total Eclipse" she manages to describe the experience of witnessing
Not my favorite, though there are wonderful moments here. She seems in "An Expedition to the Pole" to get wrong what she gets so right in For the Time Being. In the latter, she lays her examinations--internal and external--side-by-side and leaves us to connect. They resonate against one another and flare out into unexpected meanings. Here, she smashes her examinations of the lives of arctic explorers together with her impressions of a largely mundane Catholic service in a surreal mish-mash that ...more
This is another wonderful collection of essays from Annie Dillard--carefully observed, primarily oriented around nature, and at times, surprisingly poignant. One of the things I like most about Dillard is her ability to see the mystery in all things. She realizes through her observations of the world that there's more going on than just what we see on the surface. The creature or created thing echo and reflect their Creator.

The earliest essays in this collection are the best, with Living like We
This is a book of essays: some reflective, mostly descriptive. Sometimes I was reading and thinking, "What the hell is she talking about?" But, it's worth it to keep reading because there are phrases and paragraphs that are just golden:

From "Total Eclipse": "The mind—the culture—has two little tools, grammar and lexicon: a decorated sand bucket and a matching shovel."

From "An Expedition to the Pole": "It all seems a pit at first, for I have overcome a fiercely anti-Catholic upbringing in order t
Never thought I'd give an Annie Dillard less than 5 (or 6 or 7) stars, but this one didn't speak to me quite as much as Pilgrim at Tinker Creek or Holy the Firm or even The Maytrees. Perhaps it's because I'm still in my twenties and see the world from an awestruck perspective (a la Pilgrim) while Dillard has moved on to contemplating her own mortality and the swift passage of time. She also seems out of her element writing about her time in the Amazon and the Galapagos Islands. She just writes b ...more
Donna Girouard
Very few could dispute Dillard's talent and creativity. She writes beautifully. I sometimes get caught up in her many similes and metaphors though. She gets carried away. It's as if she has two (or more) great choices for each example and can't make up her mind. Or as if someone is standing behind her saying, "Put that one in too." Or as if . . . Get it? But the imagery is there and is vividly expressed.
Unfortunately, her subject matter is, well, boring to me at times, despite how well it is res
David Ranney
Wherever we go, there seems to be only one business at hand - that of finding workable compromises between the sublimity of our ideas and the absurdity of the fact of us.
Purchased and enjoyed during a trip to Arizona, this book wasn't overall as much of a pleasure as _Pilgrim at Tinker Creek_. Its contents, while related, felt more disparate and less developed than _Pilgrim_, particularly the shorter essays, and I missed the deep intellectual meanderings that I look for when reading Dillard. "An Expedition to the Pole," "The Deer at Providencia," "Teaching a Stone to Talk," and "Total Eclipse" were the standouts, and the rest I will likely not read again. That b ...more
Each time I tried to read this book I would notice my boyfriend laughing, what I didn't notice was that I would sit down heavily and sigh as though someone was making me do knuckle push-ups. I was loaned this book by a wealthy, bored woman that I work for and thought it would be polite of me to read the book that means so much to her. Today I decided I'm done fighting. I'm tired of hearing about "god" and self-righteous observations of nature and man conquering it. I found this book pompous, bor ...more
Jenny Yates
This book rewards very minute reading. It’s a collection of essays, mostly about the intersection between the natural world and human consciousness. Dillard is a serious, skillful writer who notices the phenomena around her, and circles around it until she understands it. She’s especially aware of things that are strange and unworldly, even though natural, and this includes eclipses, mirages, and the curious fearlessness of the animals in the Galapagos Islands.

Every once in a while, she gets a
Bob Nichols
The book is uneven. More often than not, I don’t know what is being said or why. Words and sentences are presented with little or no meaning. Stories jump around and I miss their line.

And yet, there’s always enough to keep me going. When Dillard encountered a weasel unexpectedly, she writes that “our eyes locked, and someone threw away the key.” It’s “face was fierce, small and pointed as a lizard’s; he would have made a good arrowhead,” she observes. Reflecting on its life, she says that “The
Back when I was in college, I was often on a mission to identify some Christians who didn't suck. Specifically ones who seemed intelligent, read literature, cared about the environment, and actually liked science. Needless to say, I was on a pretty steady diet of Wendell Berry, David James Duncan, Walker Percy, Flannery O'Connor, and Annie Dillard. All though I had read several of her books back then, as far as I can remember this wasn't one of them, but reading it was like catching up with an o ...more
Dec 09, 2008 Julia rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of nature and writing
Shelves: non-fiction
I've read most of Dillard's work, but this thin volume of essays and PILGRIM AT TINKER CREEK are the only ones that have stayed with me. The short essays in this book once again show the power Dillard has to weave language--as a former English teacher, I'm in awe just at her sentence structure! More important is how her awe about nature shines through--"Total Eclipse" gives me goosebumps, and the title essay is one of the best I've ever read.
Adventurous collection of essays, generally on the intersection of God, humans, and nature. I could wish the whole book more unified, and more descriptively personal (like An American Childhood) than spiritually/emotionally so. But she writes so musically well that I enjoy every piece, no matter how strange or discordant the tune. Favorites: "The Deer at Providencia" and "On a Hill Far Away."
Andrew Fendrich
Sigh... Sitting here, contemplating the world of rigorous academia from which I sprang to the foothills of the Alps with an English degree and Sigma Tau Delta cords clutched firmly in hand, I confess a little remorse, perhaps even embarrassment, as I rate an Annie Dillard collection 3 out of 5 stars. Surely the staple of the scholarly English society deserves a 5-star rating, with the added note: "I would have given 6 stars if it were possible."

I'm such a bad English major. I should return my di
So I want 2 things from a book; to learn something and to be entertained. This book provided neither. Buckminster Fuller gave this a great review; although this is probably like modern art in word form, I would much rather go to a museum for my entertainment. Stopped reading after 3 stories.
Stephen Hicks
In this compilation of writings by Dillard, there are true nuggets of gold. Dillard does a phenomenal job of painting a vibrant, meaningful picture of her experiences. Her writing on Weasels will never allow me to see those furry creatures the same; this could be said of her description of a solar eclipse that she witnessed. Nothing in this book was unbelievably profound as far as self enrichment or knowledge goes, but the literary devices and vehicles that Dillard employs truly capture the imag ...more
Jan 08, 2014 H added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir

God does not demand that we give up our personal dignity, that we throw in our lot with random people, that we lose ourselves and turn from all that is not him. God needs nothing, asks nothing, and demands nothing, like the stars. It is a life with God which demands these things.
Experiences has taught the race that if knowledge of God is the end, then these habits of life are not the means but the condition in which the means operates. You do not have to do these t
Re-reading it for a high school class I'm teaching. Something about the voice bothers me (too "knowing") - not sure what it is.
I did not realize how much I like meditations on the transience of this mortal realm using the great silence of nature and creature. It suits my predilection towards zen buddhist stuff, absurdism, outer space wistfulness, etc etc etc. Reading this, sometimes I thought of James Tiptree Jr's mother, Mary Sheldon, and how great it must be to be an affluent white woman who can travel to places and write fantastic literature that moves a great many people (blanket statement). But those people are sti ...more
Robyn Goodwin
Beautiful, beautiful language. Wacky and yet surprisingly poignant.
Vincent Scarpa
Granted, a book about nature and God is for sure not anywhere near up my alley, but regardless I'd maintain that Annie Dillard is insufferable 95% of the time and the other 5% she's mostly unremarkable. Kirkus Review praises her as "peerless when it comes to injecting large resonances into the natural world," which is actually in fact why she sucks.

Give me Ill Nature by Joy Williams any day of the week. She knows the natural world does not need to be interpreted or injected with meaning to make
Beautifully written and it bored the hell out me.
Alexandra Wall
A poetic and thought-provoking series of stories woven together in metaphor. Annie Dillard provides beautiful anecdotes that explore spirituality, fear and wonder for the natural world, and the phenomena of being human. These elements are all intertwined and reflected in one another, inspired in one another. Her descriptions are rich and thoughtful. The book itself feels like a spiritual bible of nature and humanity, floating from passage to passage, moment to magnified moment, where she sees th ...more
My apologies to Mrs. Dillard who I honestly believe might have understood what she was writing about when she floated through these short stories, or essays. When reading an author most of us sacrifice the first 10 to 30 pages waiting for the cadence of writing to settle in. In this case... never. The book reminds me of one of Chuck Bowden's slop writings called Blood Orchid. What? is the guy on crack? And here.... What? is the girl on crack? "Lala Land" is a place for personal retreat and not f ...more
Hunter James
Usually it is a bit of a trick to keep your knowledge from blinding you. But during an eclipse it is easy. What you see is much more convincing than any wild-eyed theory you may know.

The lenses of telescopes and cameras can no more cover the breadth and scale of the visual array than language can cover the breadth and simultaneity of internal experience.

The mind wants to live forever, or to learn a very good reason why not. The mind wants the world to return its love, or its awareness; the mind
Metaphors between nature and life- wow. Liked the story-'Lenses'- the microscope & binoculars

p. 159 Story- Aces and Eights
…In all the history of the world it has never been so late.
p. 164 The child is riding her bicycle up the hill. I stand and look around; the thick summer foliage blocks the road from view. I turn back towards the river and hear playing cards slap in the spokes. They click and slap slowly, for the hill is steep. Now the pushing grows suddenly easier, evidently; the cards cl
"Now we are no longer primitive. Now the whole world seems not holy.....We as a people have moved from pantheism to pan-atheism...It is difficult to undo our own damage and to recall to our presence that which we have asked to leave. It is hard to desecrate a grove and change your mind. We doused the burning bush and cannot rekindle it. We are lighting matches in vain under every green tree. Did the wind used to cry and hills shout forth praise? Now speech has perished from among the lifeless th ...more
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Green Group: Summer 2013 July Read: Teaching a Stone to Talk 5 16 Aug 27, 2013 02:08PM  
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Annie Dillard (born April 30, 1945) is an American author, best known for her narrative prose in both fiction and non-fiction. She has published works of poetry, essays, prose, and literary criticism, as well as two novels and one memoir. Her 1974 work Pilgrim at Tinker Creek won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. Dillard taught for 21 years in the English department of Wesleyan Unive ...more
More about Annie Dillard...
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek The Writing Life An American Childhood The Maytrees Holy the Firm

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“You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary. But the stars neither require nor demand it.” 90 likes
“The silence is all there is. It is the alpha and the omega, it is God's brooding over the face of the waters; it is the blinded note of the ten thousand things, the whine of wings. You take a step in the right direction to pray to this silence, and even to address the prayer to "World." Distinctions blur. Quit your tents. Pray without ceasing.” 49 likes
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