Jessie's Reviews > Holy the Firm

Holy the Firm by Annie Dillard
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Jun 17, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: for-teaching, nonfiction, philosophy, spirit

I read this little zinger for the umpteenth time because I've assigned it for a "Spiritual Autobiography" seminar -- *gulp* So bizarre, so jam-packed with muscular metaphors -- it about blows my head apart every time I read it. Sure she's mannered in her prose and waaaay over the top, but I can't help but fall in love with how she tears through any viscous veil of humdrumness that forms over lived life.
If anyone has ideas for how to teach it, feel free to share them with me! That image of the moth-as-wick is epic. And this:

"There is no such thing as an artist: there is only the world, lit or unlit as the light allows." (71-2)

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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Mia (new)

Mia I'd teach it w/ Woolf's essay, too, so your students can see the homage re: moth. And what about giving some chapters from Julian of Norwich's "Showings?" And what about having them write days as gods, or take a simple clipping from the news (like Dillard did--girl's face gone) and use it as source for contemplation. Also, at the end, when she becomes the one w/out a face or name, what does that mean for art? What sort of art would be made if it were made so anonymously? (Icons are, but what about writing?) Have fun!

Jessie Oh, such great ideas, Mia -- deep thanks. I will put these ideas into practice...

message 3: by Mia (new)

Mia Sounds like an interesting class!

message 4: by Mia (new)

Mia One last thought (have thought often of this book): What about a prompt w/ the via positiva/via negativa structure of so many mystical works, a structure Dillard adopts? I know I know I know. I don't I don't I don't. It is it is. It is not it is not. Etc.

Jessie Yes, could be very fruitful. Deep thanks.

Jessie And the via positiva/negativa structure can help when writing about suffering. I find that lots of people resist how Dillard abstracts little Julie's suffering in this book: she stares it down but at the same time doesn't see it. It's strange. The suffering is not her own. So, challenging students to write about another's suffering, to explore the deep ethical dilemmas of this, could be fruitful. Could read the book, then, with other books that attempt this same semi-impossible task (maybe Sontag's Illness as Metaphor, Grealy's own Autobiography of a Face, Patchett's Truth and Beauty, which speaks of Grealy...)

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