Malbadeen's Reviews > The Writing Life

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
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Feb 26, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: nonfiction, memoir-ish
Recommended for: chicken man
Read in February, 2008

I do not, nor do I aspire to live "The Writing Life" but I have recently found myself in a writing class by virtue of necessity for my degree and I have been horrified by the enormity of the task of writing something/anything without feeling like a complete fool!
I came across this book at a used store and picked it up as my brother has been trying to get me to read Dillard for awhile.
I immediately loved it for her brutal words of reality. After sitting in the class were I have to listen to a circle of people nod their heads in affirmation at the absolutely unoriginal crap that is being churned out week after week and wondering if I'm the only one that wants to scream "Are you serious?!, did you just end your story with the line 'at least I'm not alone'" or wondering if it should be legal to let someone insert the phrase "I'd have to draw you a picture" at any point, in any story, under any circumstances, and how about using the phrase "crazy Jim", wouldn't it be kinder in the end to tell this student that saying"Crazy Jim" makes him sound like "lame-o writer"?
(does anybody but me notice that I'm avoiding sharing any of the horrendous drivel that I've put to paper? hee-hee. It's my review people, I'll do whatever I damn well please)
And then there is the soul crushing reality that there EVERYTHING has already been said!

what's this? oh another story about breaking up? how refreshing.
what's that you say? when you were in nature you felt alive? hmmm, there's a fresh perspective.
and shh, shh, I want to hear this: what truth, what inspiration. to think, children have innocence that adults have lost - I hadn't considered that.

So I sit there in that class and I try to appreciate that my reaction to all of this writing I'm hearing is a harsh and unwarranted, critique on a group of people that are sincerely trying to do something they enjoy or feel compelled to do for whatever reason. I smile, I affirm, I point out the things I liked (ya, there are some things I like) and I read my stories as fast as humanly possibly and try to avoid follow-up conversation at all costs.
but then I go home and I pick up this little book (111 pages) and I read it, first quietly then I notice I'm reading it aloud, then I'm laughing and shouting "yes"!

I think I fell in love with the book on page 11 when she talks about the meaningless task of writing compared to shoe sales. A thought she ends with, "If you believed Paradise Lost to be excellent, would you buy it? why not shoot yourself, actually, rather than finish one more excellent manuscript on which to gag the world?"


not to dork out or anything, but seriously - couldn't you pretty much say that about anything you do in life? and the wondering why we do as we do it - that's good but the doing it is better.
So I guess the syrupy, sweet moral of my story is that this book helped me to appreciate my classmates, the writing process, and the amusing trivialities that make our lives what they are.
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02/17 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Malbadeen oh shoot Lisa, I seem to have lost all those stories...come to think of it, you might know just where to find them.

message 2: by Jill (new)

Jill and your review made me appreciate you, Marie! Hilarious!

message 3: by Sharkpony (new)

Sharkpony Once upon a time, I saw the innocence of children while in the midst of a particularly painful break-up in the woods. At least in the natural surroundings, I felt alive. These aforementioned natural surroundings were so beautiful and natural that I'd have to draw you a picture for you to even have any sense of their beauty, not to mention the degree of their naturalness. Suddenly, while selling shoes to the children and my soon-to-be-ex, an epiphany exploded in my mind like a male honey bee drone explodes, after detaching from his genitalia (a painful process, I assume)while mating with the queen*: "Crazy Jim, my old muchacho" said the epiphay, "at least you're not alone."**


*Sadly, upon explosion, the drone dies.
**The narrator of the story calls himself "Crazy Jim"; the epiphany is an "inner monologue"... ironically, a solitary process.

message 4: by Sharkpony (new)

Sharkpony [errata: In the last sentence, "epiphay" should be spelled "epiphany", as it is earlier in the story. --eds.]

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