Marissa's Reviews > For the Time Being

For the Time Being by Annie Dillard
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's review
Oct 10, 2008

liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction

So, I will confess that I didn't make it all the way through this book. It's basically a creative non-fiction book which is structured as a series of interweaving, recurring meditations on various subjects. It seems like she probably wrote each of the pieces separately and then interspersed them with each other to add interest to the book and demonstrate how these different snatches of stories and histories and ideas become interwoven in your thought process.

It kind of works, but it also feels kind of gimmicky and I think I might have preferred to read them in their original, separated form. I feel like the fact that she chops them up in this way, although it does create a certain tone and mindset in the reader, kind of demonstrates a lack of respect for the reader's ability to make connections on their own without her inserting them. The bits are compelling enough on their own without mixing them all up together, which gets to be mentally tiring.

The book starts off being very compelling, as she addresses how unfathomable it can be to think of the billions of people who live on the planet and the many thousands of years of human history. She tries to take on the incomprehensibility of numbers, which is a somewhat noble and extremely frustrating goal. After a while, the hand-wringing over the unfathomableness of it all started to fry my brain though and I didn't really feel an urge to read any more because it's way too depressing and annoying to think about.

I mean, maybe she manages to come to some grand metaphysical, spiritual understanding by the end, but I kind of doubt it. I feel like the only way to deal with the monumental scale of things is to try to ignore it most of the time because you're never going to truly be able to comprehend it anyway. While I think maybe it's worth the attempt to grapple with it now and then, it's hard to make much progress. Maybe it's a defeatist thing to say, but it seems like living simply and to the fullest is the best answer and even though that's the best answer, it still doesn't feel like a particularly good one.

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