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Holy the Firm

4.23  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,007 Ratings  ·  271 Reviews
In 1975 Annie Dillard took up residence on an island in Puget Sound in a wooded room furnished with "one enormous window, one cat, one spider and one person." For the next two years she asked herself questions about time, reality, sacrifice death, and the will of God. In Holy the Firm she writes about a moth consumed in a candle flame, about a seven-year-old girl burned in ...more
Hardcover, 76 pages
Published May 1st 1977 by Harper & Row (first published 1977)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
Three days in the life of Annie Dillard.

Day One, November 18, "Newborn and Salted." She wakes up in a god ("every day is a god"), alone in her small dwelling in Puget Sound, Washington State, nature all around her. She has a cat named Small and a spider in her bathroom. She reads often. She writes what she sees: the moths dying into her burning candles, her cat, the spider in her bathroom and its kills, the land, the trees, the mountains, islands and the sea. She muses about time ("eternity's pa
May 01, 2014 Darlene rated it really liked it
My daughter states this is her favorite book, next to the Bible. She rereads it every year. I decided to find out what she likes. Having read Annie Dillard's other book and not in the mood for it at the time, I was surprised to find myself enjoying this book immensely. I feel it is a book that needs to be read aloud. Annie lives in a one room home on Puget Sound with a view of mountain ranges, the sea and forest. She lives with one ambitious cat, a spider and her thoughts. In this book we learn ...more
Annie Dillard's Holy the Firm is a classic. By that, I mean a lot of things. This slender volume--only seventy-six pages!--includes her famous moth essay, which I was required to read in my second year of college, and which I required my students to read in their first. It's a good essay. Apart from being an instrument of learning (or torture, depending on the student you're talking to), Holy the Firmis classic for another reason: it deals with the classic (or universal) question of suffering. ...more
This slim volume electrified and astounded me with its depth and poetry. Dillard writes of her time spent in a one-room shack on an island in Puget Sound in northeast Washington with "one enormous window, one cat, one spider, and one person". With marvelous metaphors and surprising turns of phrase, this prose poem explores the eternal in the particular and vice versa, reaching for a solution for the paradoxes evident in the most common perspectives of our place in the universe. The view of God a ...more
Rachel Bash
Mar 12, 2008 Rachel Bash rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book in a literary theory class as a sophomore in college, and it shook the very foundations of my thought. I know this sounds (and is) vague, but this is a book about EVERYTHING, written with poetic economy, concrete images, and, I imagine, some kind of grace. Dillard reflects on what it means to be an artist (it's being a nun, being a moth on fire, being a little girl burned, being a tired, burnt out writer), and in the process takes on time, mortality, and fury at the spitefulness ...more
Just yesterday someone told me that Annie Dillard has said this is one of her least favorite books. Regardless, her self-standards are exceptionally high, and amongst our choices, her "worst" works must still be some of the most profound in thought and most unique in their creativeness.

I haven't read much Dillard, but each time I do, I am astounded by her attention to detail and by her ability to create shockingly clear images with words. Indeed, her gift for using words is beyond explanation.
Jan 03, 2016 N rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is heady, abstract, concrete, brilliant, and beautiful. At times I feel the essayist has meandered away from her readers, but I am happy trying to follow.
Jan 05, 2008 Jenny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
In my top ten all-time favorites. Dillard's prose is haunting. Moths have never seemed the same since.
Christian Engler
In Holy the Firm, Annie Dillard certainly can not be accused for excess verbiage. Her little book, consisting of less than eighty pages, is a thoughtful and sometimes intense investigation into the soul. One can almost imagine her staring deeply at a flowing river or a particular kind of tree and genuinely seeing Divinity in and around it, authentically feeling it and being transportated to the nether reaches of the unexplained. Yet, it is a good place or moment where nothing can touch you or hu ...more
May 29, 2011 Mickey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most beautiful books I've ever read. Annie Dillard at her mesmerizing, rambling, inscrutable best. The theme of this book (and from what I've heard, she's claimed only one reviewer from Harvard has managed to figure it out) is less concrete than Pilgrim or An American Childhood, so it might be a frustrating read for those of us that require point to a book. (Personally, I'm not one of them. I'll happily float along, immersed in her amazing words and phrases ...more
Jan 06, 2008 Elise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I first read this book my heart had been deeply stirred by a compelling desire to experience God in his wild, untamed attributes, knowing that the experience would be terrifying and purifying. It was then that my deep desire was birthed to spend at least one year in the Pacific Northwest where I would experience the gray, windy, blustery, wet winter that only the Pacific Northwest knows. I knew it would be at once terrible and transformationally beautiful. Well, I got my wish when I moved u ...more
J. Alfred
Dec 08, 2010 J. Alfred rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Confusing as you can believe, heartbreaking, and absolutely gorgeous. This book deals more honestly with the problem of God and pain than anything else I've ever read except Job.
The majority of the book is about a young girl whose face is badly burnt in a freak accident. From what I understand, it is based on a real event, but Dillard names her child Julie Norwich; her mother's name is Anne. Thus the child is Julie of Anne Norwich. This is interesting in that there was a fourteenth century myst
Aug 05, 2013 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yesterday I felt like going to the Arboretum and reading some Annie Dillard, so I chose this book and a lovely maple to sit by and enjoyed both very much. I won't explain here what this book is about, because finding out what it is about was part of what made this short book so enjoyable. Dillard wrote this book while she was living in Puget Sound and, like in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, writes a clever mixture of reflections on nature, God, and various fascinating facts that she has read about the ...more
Feb 19, 2010 Rimas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In brief, this book is one case where I'd urge readers of this review to go find more interesting reviews of it to read, I imagine this one has spawned passionate comments from thousands of readers and writers. The beginning two sentences read like a revelation:

"Every day is a god, each day is a god, and holiness holds forth in time. I worship each god, I praise each day splintered down and wrapped in time like a husk, a husk of many colors spreading, at dawn fast over the mountains split."

I w
Jan 21, 2010 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this much too fast and will read it again soon.

I feel like Dillard's work, and this book in particular, is to writing what impressionism is to painting. I don't always get it, but I love it. I wish I could write like her.

She lost me at points, but blew me away at others. Not a long enough book to get bogged down in either. Must be I am trying to sell my favorite authors tonight, but I feel like this one would be a decent taste of Dillard for those who can't quite get into her otherwise: s
May 20, 2013 Tara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Inspired reading for my upcoming trip to the Oregon coast. Written during Dillard's stay on an island in Puget Sound, this short collection covers familiar territory: faith, nature, mystery. But also anger, injustice, and our collective obsession with The West.

"When I first came here I faced east and watched the mountains...since they are, incredibly, east, I must be no place at all. But the sun rose over the snowfields and woke me where I lay, and I rose and cast a shadow over someplace, and th
Catherine Blass
May 29, 2016 Catherine Blass rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A friend of mine loaned me this little book, saying that it is her favorite book in the world and that she's read it many times. I was a bit skeptical, but took it anyway because I respect her taste in many things, but especially literature.

Dillard's writing is absolutely breathtaking--I can think of no other word for it. She addresses some of the most painful human questions in the most beautiful way. After I return this book to my friend, I plan to buy my own copy, give it to friends, and read
May 03, 2007 peter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm happy reading Annie Dillard just for the words most of the time, but this book asks difficult questions about pain and about the presence of God in the world. It's probably her least focused book (other than Pilgrim At Tinker Creek), not surprising since it's only her second, but it got down inside me somehow and I haven't been the same since.
Tamara Hill Murphy
It's only 76 pages, so why in the world has it taken me this long to read this well-loved volume of essays by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Dillard? I don't know, but now that I've read it I guess it really doesn't matter because I've tucked the words and images from this slim volume right into place between all the other Annie Dillard treasures already sunk away into my memory and imagination. And a shimmery store of treasures it is!

Reading these essays felt almost like an epilogue of Pilgrim at
Kevin Spicer
Aug 06, 2015 Kevin Spicer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The question is, then, whether God touches anything. Is anything firm, or is time on the loose?"

Spirituality is always at the tip of our tongue. We know, or have remembered, that it requires engagement with the elements, embodiment in living. We want to find springs and lap water into buckets, see it spilling into light, we want to build fires and feel the darkness at our backs. But the world is in endless motion, our lives refuse stillness. And after all this, what do we make of violence? If w
Jun 23, 2015 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading Annie Dillard is like mowing the tall grass: make a pass at a sentence, back up, make another pass, repeat as necessary. Here, Dillard is perhaps at her most mystic, her most metaphorical. She's wrestling with holiness and spirit in the wake of dumb tragedy (in this case, the severe burning of a child in a plane wreck) and doing so--as her bent--with an unforgiving rigor.

To Dillard, the sentence is the primary source of meaning in the world, and she works hers over until they are all pe
May 02, 2015 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dillard does her thing here, and does it well--she makes observations of the natural world and the events around her and draws from them questions and curiosities, suggestions and substance. The book has something of a slow building quality to it as Dillard circles ever closer to that primary event which spawns her most significant thoughts on suffering, time, and God--a tragic burning accident involving a little girl. That such calamities strike drives us to question, to seek understanding. And ...more
Liz Shine
Aug 20, 2015 Liz Shine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh, Ms. Dillard. I heart you. From the first time I opened Pilgrim At Tinker Creek in a nature writing class as Grays Harbor College in 1994, you have consistently demonstrated the ability to take my breath away and give it back over and over again. They way you take your observations of nature and experiences of the world and use them to explore the biggest questions amazes me. You are not for the bored or faint-hearted.
I took this little book with me to Flapjack Lakes and read it until I fell
Bob Nichols
Dillard writes that “Nothing is going to happen in this book. There is only a little violence here and there in the language at the corner where eternity clips time.” That, I suppose, describes this book. It is about, what? God of some sort is everywhere? Her opening line is that “Every day is a god, each day is a god, and holiness holds forth in time.”

Each day, she writes, “discovers itself, like the poem” and the book itself is a poem. She rescues semicolons from obscurity and gives them a maj
May 06, 2014 Sylvester rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, 2014
2.5* The book probably deserves more stars, but I understood so little of it, I couldn't give more. I truly enjoyed "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" and "An American Childhood" - but this one I just couldn't seem to get the gist of. What was she really saying? What was her conclusion? It didn't ever become clear to me. I love the way she expresses herself, and I appreciate what she was trying to do - I'm just sad that I didn't get it.
Sep 26, 2015 Tamsen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tbr-challenge
I am not religious, but I think people who are must find a great deal of comfort in this book. Dillard rages and then raves about god - his beauty and creations, his pain and his suffering - and most of all, asks why. I can only imagine that the religious, experiencing a loss, would find peace in the many feelings one has about religion and faith during pain and misery.

I already know the world is a fucked-up place with no good reasons to answer the why.

That said, and ignoring my slight confusi
Amy Paget
Holy the Firm is a remarkable series of 3 lyrical essays penned by Annie Dillard, first published in 1977. “Newborn & Salted” explores her daily connections with the infinite while living on Lummi Island in Washington State. The second, “God’s Tooth” tackles the difficult theological proposition of God allowing “natural evil to happen” when a plane crashes, and the third, “Holy the Firm” explores in part her church life on the island. Dillard’s visions of God are startling, yet profound. Alt ...more
Patrick Eckhardt
I can't figure out if this book inspires me to write, or makes me want to quit because it appears the English language has already peaked.
Joshua West
Annie Dillard denies that she used psychedelics while writing this book and though I was willing to believe her at first, after finishing section three I'm pretty skeptical.
May 15, 2016 Kristin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lovely and challenging book. Each page needs time to savor and digest.
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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
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“We sleep to time's hurdy-gurdy; we wake, if ever we wake, to the silence of God. And then, when we wake to the deep shores of time uncreated, then when the dazzling dark breaks over the far slopes of time, then it's time to toss things, like our reason, and our will; then it's time to break our necks for home.
There are no events but thoughts and the heart's hard turning, the heart's slow learning where to love and whom. The rest is merely gossip, and tales for other times.”
“There are no events but thoughts and the heart's hard turning, the heart's slow learning where to love and whom. The rest is merely gossip, and tales for other times.” 34 likes
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