Jimmy's Reviews > Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
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's review
Nov 25, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: female, non-fiction, year-1970s

For me, two stars means "I disliked it" (even though GR says it means "it was okay"). I usually don't finish books that I dislike, that's why I have so few 2 star reviews here on this site. However, this one seemed harmless enough, and there were aspects of the book I liked (at least when I started). For example, there are a lot of stories and anecdotes about nature that were really interesting:
"On cool autumn nights, eels hurrying to the sea sometimes crawl for a mile or more across dewy meadows to reach streams that will carry them to salt water." These are adult eels, silver eels, and this descent that slid down my mind is the fall from a long spring ascent the eels made years ago. [...] In the late summer of the year they reached maturity, they stopped eating and their dark color vanished. They turned silver; now they are heading to the sea [...where] they will mate, release their eggs, and die. [...] Imagine a chilly night and a meadow; balls of dew droop from the curved blades of grass. [...] Here come the eels. The largest are five feet long. All are silver. They stream into the meadow, sift between grasses and clover, veer from your path. There are too many to count. All you see is a silver slither, like twisted ropes of water falling roughly, a one-way milling and mingling over the meadow and slide to the creek.
This is interesting. It's this kind of stuff that kept me reading. There's still a little bit of over-writing in there that I despise, but whatever. Now listen to this next part:
If I saw that sight, would I live? If I stumbled across it, would I ever set foot from my door again? Or would I be seized to join that compelling rush, would I cease eating, and pale, and abandon all to start walking?
Blegh! The melodrama! The romanticization! The overly dramatic prose... and why does she always think everything has to do with HER? Almost every time she mentions some natural phenomena, she inevitably ends the thought with some kind of personal revelation or reaction. It's excessive and selfish and human-centric. It's exactly what I don't want to read in a book about nature. She just inserts herself everywhere, as if her thoughts are more important than what is actually going on.

As for the language, which people seem to praise, I found it bloated, overwritten and unnecessarily concerned with description. Not just description, but description bordering on embellishment. I felt her human hands in everything, making the beauty that she often describes into heavy labored prose full of awkward strain and effort.
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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Blair This is everything I wanted to say about this book. Thank you!

Jimmy You're welcome!

Elizabeth such tragedy missing joy…

message 4: by Carol (new)

Carol Thank you, Jimmy... you explained it perfectly. So many chances to simply enjoy what Creator gifted us with were ruined by her incessant "its really all about ME!" redundant prose.

Jimmy Thanks Carol :) Glad I wasn't the only one annoyed by this one. Seems like everyone else loves this book.

message 6: by Carol (new)

Carol While I did enjoy the few episodes of sense and clarity, the overblown poetic pretentiousness dragged down my reading enthusiasm. Having appreciated the joys of creek-wading and experiencing true Nature for almost 70 years, I'll just continue respecting the glorious realities, without rose-colored glasses. Different strokes....

Boris Gregoric great review. summed it up for me as well. thank you .

Jimmy Thanks Boris

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