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For the Time Being

4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  2,881 Ratings  ·  360 Reviews
From Annie Dillard, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and one of the most compelling writers of our time, comes For the Time Being, her most profound narrative to date. With her keen eye, penchant for paradox, and yearning for truth, Dillard renews our ability to discover wonder in life's smallest--and often darkest--corners. Why do we exist? Whe ...more
Audio CD, 5 pages
Published May 1st 2011 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published March 1st 1999)
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JES
About 20 years ago, I met a guy -- a writer whose opinions I respected, even admired -- whose response to Annie Dillard's writing took me completely by surprise. He hated it. As I recall, he used words like "pretentious," "overrated," and "pretty" (that last may have had quotation marks of its own around it).

Given that I was in mid-swoon at the time from my first exposure to her work, I couldn't really muster a defense other than of the to-each-his-own sort. Since that time, though, as a non-con
...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I like this book slightly less than Dillard's other books because she uses other people's words more than her own. For some people, that might make this book stronger, but I miss her being the strongest presence. This combines a French philosopher/Jesuit priest who would turn out to be one of the most important paleontologists of the 20th century, Hasidic Judaism, scientific information on sand, and a personal journey through the middle east. But it isn't about those things - the book is really ...more
Lauren
Affirmation that Dillard's words are crafted so spectacularly that I had to pause the audio, and listen again and again. Her mix of science and spirit are so fully engaging - here she threads stories of mystical Judaism (early rabbinic merkabah with later kabbalah, and Lubavitcher Hasidism) alongside reflections of newborn babies with severe deformities; the science and life cycle of a particle of sand, mating snails, and the writings of Teilhard de Chardin, the French Jesuit priest/paleontologi ...more
Christina
Apr 18, 2007 Christina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Annie Dillard is the best writer on the planet. Period.

"The sight of a cleaned clay soldier upright in a museum case is unremarkable, and this is all that future generations will see. No one will display those men crushed beyond repair; no one will display their lose parts; no one will display them crawling from the walls. Future generations will miss the crucial sight of ourselves as rammed earth."

"Standing again, rubbing my fingers together, I found more stone stairways, more levels, and the s
...more
Richard Gilbert
Feb 15, 2012 Richard Gilbert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this audacious little book Annie Dillard ponders God, the holiness of newborns, and any individual’s insignificance in geologic time. Her prose is astringent, with wry appreciation for the brilliant and for the genuine among us; with a barely controlled horror at our animal fates and our capacity for indifference and evil. She unfolds this meditation in discrete chunks; each of the book’s seven chapters is divided into segments, more or less these and in this order:

• Birth (especially horrifi
...more
Maureen Clark
Annie Dillard takes on the biggest questions of our existence. Why do we exist? How can one person matter? Dillard approaches these questions, not so much to fnd the answer as to explore what it means to exist and matter. Whether she is exploring the genetic slip-ups of human malformations or Teilhard's palentological explorations in China she is herself delving into the meaning of being a human being in a particular place and time, experiencing the history of that particular time and place. At ...more
Cheryl
Another Dillard favorite in a very different way. I think she is the wisest woman on the planet, and I would love if she started a church.
Her themes:
birth-sand-china-clouds-numbers-israel-encounters-thinker-evil-now

Is it not late? A late time to be living? Are not our generations the crucial ones? For we have changed the world. Are not our heightened times the important ones? For we have nuclear bombs. Are we not especially significant because our century is? - our century and its unique Holoca
...more
Jacob
Oct 21, 2007 Jacob rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well... juicy bits here and there, but the choppy narrative is challenging. But challenging is good! OK, then, at times it's more than challenging; it stretches credulity and feels contrived or precious or, worse, like paint splattered on a canvas. "Find meaning, or call my bluff!" the artist taunts. "Fuck off, this is shit, this isn't honest!" I yell back.

That said, there are good bits, lovely bits. Much of the natural description, and the spiritual meditations, and most of the historical quota
...more
Lynn
Oct 31, 2010 Lynn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've moved so much that I've given almost all books away. This is one I've saved. I've lost it twice, replaced it twice. I can't remember the last time I opened it, yet I would feel lost without it. Once, this was my cure for anxiety. Overcome, I would open it at random and read until I felt better. On the one hand, it affirms the uniqueness and wonder of all things. On the other, it reminds us of how insignificant we are in our universe of mind-boggling numbers. Both of these themes are develop ...more
Kathy
Jul 11, 2010 Kathy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a rare book for me - one that made me stop, savor what I had read, and occasionally go back and reread for clarity. Life, death, God, evil, suffering, bird headed dwarves - Annie Dillard delves into them all and weaves her introspection into a something beautiful. I was left seriously pondering my own existence, my place in the world and what more I should be doing to be actively living. So, so many things I loved about this book, but have been particularly fixated on the idea of dirt, ...more
Julie Wilding
Sep 17, 2016 Julie Wilding rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beyond me.

"They found that Bride Sabbath, whose light sanctifies the week, was akin to the Shekinah, that weeping and wandering woman who figures as God's presence in the world, exiled here in suffering until redemption brings the world to God."

"When the liturgy ended, most men removed their prayer shawls and phylacteries, and left; a few lingered to study. Later, if the boy saw a book left open on a bench, he spread a prayer shawl to cover its open pages. In his world, people respected books.
...more
Amy
Jul 01, 2010 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I recently blogged, I have a crush on Annie Dillard. Everything I've read by her has been astounding, eye opening, inspiring. Her thoughts and experiences on life, spirituality, nature, and God, in this unusual collection of essays argues both our insignificance in a grand, unknowable universe and our roles as gods in our own lives and the lives those we encounter. Droll and quirky commentary on her travels to Israel and China follow countless quotes from preeminent Kabbalist rabbis, palentologi ...more
Pam
Jul 22, 2009 Pam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The miracle of this book is how Dillard gets at the universally important truths (nothing less than what is the fundamental in our lives) through such specific and gripping stories, examples, and juxtapositions of information. She doesn't tell us the truths, she shows them to us, reveals them in sometimes horrifying ways. Without a single illustration it is as visually detailed as a I've read in a long time. This book was recommended to me by an artist friend. I'm savoring every page, rereading ...more
Matt
Jul 10, 2012 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My head won't fathom the weight of such research. My head, I imagine, would split along seams were I to stuff it so full, were I to attempt carrying the weight of so many numbers, facts, quotes.

Human nature ties disparate data points together, be they events or quotes or numbers or any litany of other things. We create connection, a relation, order in chaos; this is the way of the human brain. In other words? This book may be more human than me.

[4 stars for a sky full of strings and the simplici
...more
Betsy
Very humbling. It's hard to make readers feel so small while simultaneously making life so meaningful, but Annie Dillard does it here.
Tracy Kendall
Jun 16, 2009 Tracy Kendall rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Probably my favorite Dillard (along with Holy the Firm). Otherworldly, strange, close. This is a continual read, I start it up again when I start to feel unmoored.
Krista
Jun 23, 2013 Krista rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, nonfiction
Seeing the open pits in the open air, among farms, is the wonder, and seeing the bodies twist free from the soil. The sight of a cleaned clay soldier upright in a museum case is unremarkable, and this is all that future generations will see. No one will display those men crushed beyond repair; no one will display their loose parts; no one will display them crawling from the walls. Future generations will miss the crucial sight of ourselves as rammed earth.


The first Chinese emperor, Emperor Qin,
...more
Moriah Pratt
Reading this narrative was like eating a box of assorted chocolates without knowing which was which until you bit into it; rich, grace-filled, poignantly deep, unexpected, wondering. Annie Dillard's voice resonates through the factual discoveries and paradoxes: tangents with order. You can feel her excitement as she holds up and frames the treasures she has found, like a child saying, "Look! Look at this! See that? Did you see it?"

It is a small treasure of knowledge and curiosities that slowly w
...more
Laryn
Sep 04, 2009 Laryn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This is a book made up of fragments of history and philosophy, random facts about sand and clouds, and fractured narratives. But it is more than that, too, as Annie Dillard takes these broken elements and tries to weave them together. (You could think of it as a literary version of the Tibetan sand mandala).


She takes on a bevy of big topics: life and death, permanence and eternity, individuality in the midst of billions, and whether God is responsible for calamity. There are no easy answers to t

...more
GoldGato
The closer we grow to death, the more closely we follow the news.

Such 'true dat' reflections from Anne Dillard endeared me to this book. Filled with short paragraphs on birth, death, God, good, and evil, I became somewhat addicted to each page. If we could break our book collections into wine comparisons, this volume would land in the Chianti section...medium-bodied with high acidity.

This is where they wash the newborns like dishes.

Lest one think Dillard just rambles on like a Zeppelin song, she
...more
Chris
Jun 12, 2009 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I'm really not ready to write about this revelatory little book, so suffice it to say that I checked it out of the library and knew by page 7 that I needed my own copy to mark and mark and mark and make mine. I suspect I'll be coming back to this book for years.

Dillard: There were no formerly heroic times, and there was no formerly pure generation. There is no one here but us chickens, and so it has always been: a people busy and powerful, knowledgeable, ambivalent, important, fearful, and self-
...more
Wayne
Dec 08, 2013 Wayne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I rarely reread books, but Annie Dillard is my 'go to' author. 'Pilgrim at Tinker Creek' has long been my favorite book, my Boundary Waters book, the book I return to in order to find a center or firm foothold in whatever is mystical and natural. It's a wonderful paradox that a writer can be both grounded in the mystic/spiritual/'religious' world of the seeker and the natural/fact-based/scientific world of the seer. But then, maybe not. Truth is full of paradox. Like 'Pilgrim at Tinker Creek', ' ...more
papasteve
Annie Dillard is an essayist whose greatest gift is noticing. This book of essays is cleverly arranged because she weaves several streams of thought, almost touching each other, until the middle of the book she begins to intermingle their waters. These streams include odd human birth defects, China, the history of sand, Teilhard, the Hassidim, and several deep questions about life and death. This book is full of wonder and wonderings. I found I didn't like it as much as her other books such as P ...more
Norman Gautreau
Oct 09, 2012 Norman Gautreau rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a profound and spiritual (in a secular way) book. Dillard poses serious questions about the nature of the human experience. The book description promises she will ask such questions as: “Why do we exist? Where did we come from? How can one person matter?” and this she does. Beautifully. Of course, she doesn’t provide neat answers. Who could? But she frames the questions about as wonderfully as I have ever seen. Dillard’s writing-her word selection, her rhythms, her pacing-is often electr ...more
Scott
Apr 06, 2017 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First experience with Dillard; strange, but (imho) worth it: "On the dry Laetoli plain of northern Tanzania, Mary Leakey found a trail of hominid footprints. The three barefoot people - likely a short man and woman and child Australopithecus - walked closely together. They walked in moist volcanic tuff and ash. We have a record of those few seconds from a day about 3.6 million years ago - before hominids even chipped stone tools. More ash covered the footprints and hardened like plaster. Ash als ...more
Stacey
Feb 09, 2016 Stacey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I revised my opinion and rating after reading, and being angered by, The Letters of Teilhard de Chardin & Lucile Swan. See final paragraphs).
-------------------------------------------------

Man, this was a beautiful book. Full of musings about us and God. Stories from all over the world and all through time intersect, are stepped away from, then brought back to us. The stories eventually overlap, forming a circle.

As an artist, Art and Fear is one of those books that's special to me because
...more
Josh Meares
Annie Dillard is another in a long, long, long line of writers that examine what death and suffering mean, particularly its implications for the existence and characteristics of God. I enjoyed Dillard's style of writing, and I thought some of her metaphors were telling. Overall, I thought this book was interesting, but I am deeply disturbed that reviewers are calling this book "mind-expanding". Annie Dillard takes the fundamental problem of human existence and "discovers" it. She tries to person ...more
Elizabeth
Jan 18, 2010 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
This book was less immediately affecting than The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, but it combines Dillard's intense curiosity for scientific fact (particularly anomalous cases) and religious history into a lyrical and beautiful prose style that seems to truly reflect the wonder and awe she finds in nature and life. I imagine Dillard as the sort of writer who spends hours pouring over really dense histories and scientific textbooks, only to pull out exquisite details which she renders into poetic insigh ...more
Kaelan
May 18, 2017 Kaelan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic, philosophy
"We are civilized generation number 500 or so, counting from 10,000 years ago when we settled down. We are Homo Sapiens generation number 7,500, counting from 150,00 years ago when our species presumably arose. And we are are human generation number 125,000, counting from the earliest Homo species. Yet how can we see ourselves as only a short-term replacement cast for a long-running show, when a new batch of birds flies around singing, and new clouds move? Living things from hyenas to bacteria w ...more
Jeremy Manuel
May 06, 2012 Jeremy Manuel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
In many ways it is hard to explain or review this work by Annie Dillard without actually experiencing it. In some ways it is a challenging read, it is not structured like many of the books we read. It is woven together with a handful of themes. Through these themes Dillard seems to be exploring our relationship to God. Is there a God? What is He like? Do we have meaning and purpose? If there is a God and we do have meaning how do we account for the suffering, pain, and evil in the world?

These ar
...more
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Does she achieve her usual balanced view? 1 5 Sep 06, 2015 02:34AM  
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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 live in all we seek.” 46 likes
“There were no formerly heroic times, and there was no formerly pure generation. There is no one here but us chickens, and so it has always been: A people busy and powerful, knowledgeable, ambivalent, important, fearful, and self-aware; a people who scheme, promote, deceive, and conquer; who pray for their loved ones, and long to flee misery and skip death. It is a weakening and discoloring idea, that rustic people knew God personally once upon a time-- or even knew selflessness or courage or literature-- but that it is too late for us. In fact, the absolute is available to everyone in every age. There never was a more holy age than ours, and never a less.” 33 likes
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