Nathaniel Dean's Reviews > The Maytrees

The Maytrees by Annie Dillard
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Oct 02, 2007

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Recommended for: philosophers, bookworms
Read in October, 2007

I'm glad I wasn't the only one who bothered to look up pauciloquy on page 70, and was bothered to note that this $110.00 word meaning "brevity of speech" was not only archaic (as of 1913) and misspelled (Dillard spells it "pauciloquoy"), but also not as good a word choice as "terseness" IMHO. Not only does this word describe Lou's character to a T, but also describes the writing style in this book that pretends to be a poem, but happily is not.

So the book is a bit decadent in word choice and meter (Dillard even uses Joyce's -- to indicate quotation and she unfortunately borrowed his habit for omitting speaker). As seen above, it makes for great teasing (almost prepared a menu of expensive words she uses in the book for the book club meeting). But unlike Danielewski's latest obsfucation, Dillard's book is highly readable (well, after the first 30 pages of nearly unbearable fawning) and makes for some stirring prose. Sometimes the narrator or characters will say these really great one-liners that take you aback, and make you think hard about what Maytree, Lou, Deary, Pete are feeling in each scene. For being a "quick read" I sure had to think a lot to read the book, and that's a good sign.

I think that the most unnerving part of this book is that it traverses the three main character's lives bow to stern, which wouldn't be as disturbing as it is when she describes their death. Granted, I don't take the concept of death and dying well, regardless of how many books I've read that bring it up. But describing how these people die hour by hour really catches me offguard; I and most of everyone I know will die in similar fashion.

In short, this book is wonderfully written. I'd probably have given it four stars if it were more up my alley.
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