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For the Time Being

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  2,397 ratings  ·  289 reviews

Why do we exist? Where did we come from? How can one person matter? Dillard searches for answers in a powerful array of images. For the Time Being evokes the terrifying grandeur of all that remains troublingly beyond our understanding.

Audio CD, 5 pages
Published May 1st 2011 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published March 1st 1999)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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
Christina
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
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
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Jacob
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
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
Kathy
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
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
Krista
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
Amy
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
Matt
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
Tracy Kendall
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.
Betsy
Very humbling. It's hard to make readers feel so small while simultaneously making life so meaningful, but Annie Dillard does it here.
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
Elizabeth
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
Laryn

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
Lynn
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
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
Wayne
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
Chris
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
Jeremy Manuel
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
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
Bobbettylou
Twenty-five years after writing "Pilgrim at Tinkeer Creek" Dillard has done it again - an engaging and far-roaming book of tidbits and musings relating natural history to ethics to theology to personal experience. As the book jacket tells it, "here is a natural history of sand,a catalogue of clouds, a batch of newborns [with birth defects] in an obstetrical ward, a family of Mongol horsemen." The reader also encounters Jesuit theologian Teildard de Chardin and Hasidic Judaism.

This is the classic
...more
Norman Gautreau
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
Pam
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
Josue
Answering life’s toughest questions has never been easy, nor-I believe, will ever be. It seems as though we approach an answer but inevitably collide with a series of brand new questions that refine our sense of just how complicated the world really is and how ambiguous life can be. Annie Dillard, in her book For the Time Being, confronts some of these complications involving life’s most difficult questions.
From the very beginning of the book one can already feel the curiosity of Dillard leakin
...more
Greg Morgan
Tremendously thought provoking book! A series of vignettes testing the ultimate question of how we relate to God. Every part is wonderful; like a beautiful tree that upon occasion exposes a glimpse of golden fruit, Dillard offers some of the most touching examples of human thought and emotion.

The Jesuit priest-philosopher-paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wanders about the narrative, not quite brushing shoulders with, among others, the Rabbi Baal Shem Tov, Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang'
...more
Denny
Mar 20, 2015 Denny rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who prides him- or herself for having beliefs, not knowledge, about God.
I had never read any of Annie Dillard’s works prior to this, and even after 2 hours of listening to For the Time Being, I hadn’t figured out exactly what was going on or even what I was hearing. By the time I finished the audiobook, though, I had so enjoyed it that I decided to give it an immediate second listen.


By exploring her feelings and ruminations about such disparate concepts as clouds, evil, sand, birth, love, geological epochs, and religion through the media of differing viewpoints, pub
...more
John
I'm giving this one three stars as it's so very dense for such a short book; granted, I'm not into philosophy, but still the material was difficult for me to get into much of the time. I doubt I would've stuck with the print version, but Tavia Gilbert's audio enthusiasm was so evident that it carried me along. Folks who'd be interested in well written musings on the nature of human existence ought to find this one a real knock out!
Kelly
May 29, 2007 Kelly rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: patient people
I genuinely hope that there is no really good book out there by Annie Dillard that I am missing, because I didn't enjoy this one so much in high school and it put me off reading more.

I remember some lovely imagery. The story of the Chinese army particularly sticks out in my mind after all these years, but that's about all I remember except that I was generally quite bored by it otherwise.
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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 Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters

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“We live in all we seek.” 41 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.” 26 likes
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