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Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
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Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is the story of a dramatic year in Virginia's Blue Ridge valley. Annie Dillard sets out to see what she can see. What she sees are astonishing incidents of "mystery, death, beauty, violence."

Customer Reviews:

  • Like Reading a Dream
    When I picked up the book, I became completely immersed within another person's mind and thoughts. Through the writing, I saw new things. I was inspired and horrified. I was challenged.

    I read the book in small chunks, because I needed to leave it for some thought before returning to it. This written art is very easy to read and as intriguing as good journalism, but it is dense with emotion and provocative ideas. Don't be detterred by the first chapter or two, as it takes a bit to become enraptured with it (at least, for me). Now, I consider it one of my favorite books....more info

  • A Book Without a Thesis
    If you are one who reads merely to be awed by an author's eloquence, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek may just hit your sweet tooth. Combining the long-winded lyricism of Thoreau with the telegraphic yet powerful sentences of Hemingway, Dillard's style makes for an engaging and relatively easy read. Dillard's quixotic analysis of nature through imaginative metaphors and meandering anecdotes leaves nothing to be desired in the area of creativity. Dillard spares no expense in proving to the reader that she is a master of the English language.

    Sadly, its artistic writing is the only aspect of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek that could possibly render it recommendable. Anyone searching for substance in this incarnation of the overactive imagination of Annie Dillard is bound to emerge at least somewhat disappointed (at most ready to throw the book in frustration). Unlike Thoreau's Walden, to which Pilgrim at Tinker Creek has seen much comparison, Dillard's prose-driven work lacks any serious analysis of human society (or anything else with the remotest ties to practicality, for that matter), preferring to adamantly adhere to nature-writing. While this may appeal to some, I find nothing enlightening about reading a twelve-page reflection on the nuances of stalking muskrats in Virginia's Blue Ridge Valley, even after being shown how 'muskrat-hunting' is actually a type of meditation akin to yoga for Dillard.

    In passages such as these in which Dillard draws profound meanings from everyday observations of nature, it becomes clear that philosophy is not her forte. Although Pilgrim at Tinker Creek offers some provocative insights regarding the creator's possible views and motives, the majority of philosophizing that takes place within its pages is agonizingly abstract and unsophisticated. For instance, after confessing that she is "not a scientist," Dillard promptly mangles quantum mechanics to drive home to the reader her chaotic vision of the universe. Furthermore, everything in Dillard's philosophy is eventually measured against her ultimate standard of 'beauty' (as opposed to Thoreau's 'truth'). Even though Dillard implies possession of a broad perspective in her ponderings on God's intentions, she completely fails to examine 'beauty' in any other perspective but her own, or even to define it at all. Ultimately, Dillard comes off less as a true philosopher and more as a rambling pseudointellectual. However, I am comparing the wisdom of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek's ideas to those of Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics (for me, the quintessential book of philosophy), so I am probably being hypercritical of Dillard in this area.

    Even so, the remainder of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek's optimal audience who are not disenchanted with Dillard's fuzzy philosophy and pseudo-scientific similes remains quite limited. This is a book (as stated in the title of another reader review) "for those of us who've meditated too far and too long." In other words, "Pragmatists: stay FAR away". Only avid literati with an affinity for nature-driven romanticizing will fully appreciate Dillard's gallivanting prose. For most, however, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is useful only as a lesson in the use of figurative language.
    ...more info
  • Detail Can Be An Enemy
    In writing Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard uses an enormous amount of detail. Detail that some readers could find fascinating and intricate. But some could find goury and discomforting. Yes, her detail adds complexity that is needed to understand her as a person and a writer, but it also adds a displeasant hora to the books meaning.
    When Annie Dillard mentions the water bug sucking the insides of a frog out, and then watching the frogs remains (skin) float down the river repeated throughout the book, she brings a gut renching picture into the readers head. A picture that can be stood once, but not four and five times over.
    Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is enhanced because of its detail as well. Not one reader could get the full affect of her private world if her discription of the Monark butterfly was not so brillant, or if her repeated spider references were not so intricate.
    Given that there is an excess amount of detail in some parts of her book, and that she does tend to disgust the reader at some points, Annie Dillard accomplished describing nature, its bad, and its good. After all, not everything can be red roses and crystal water lines.
    Read this book. If someone really reads this book, then they will get a fulfilment out of it. They will learn to mix the bad with the good, and appreciate nature just a little bit more. After all, that was Annie Dillards goal in the first place....more info
  • Five Stars--Seen Clearly
    Find time to read "Pilgrim at Tinker's Creek". Annie Dillard writes about seeing--Seeing--and writes so beautifully about life seen clearly and meaningfully. It's an exquisite book that merges her observations on life in the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountain Valley, and her experiences teaching the young, and her own surprising lessons in learning to See.

    Dillard is a brilliant writer whose prose is as agile and weighted and sonorous as poetry. Frankly, surprise, it often IS poetry--and essential.

    To the Amazon readers who didn't appreciate Pilgrim, "if at first you do not see, blink, and look again." This can be a life changing book; we don't want to live like cockroaches, do we? And to the reviewer who said the cat described on page one scratched the waking author: Well, no. The cat left bloody footprints on her because he was a tom cat who'd been out fighting or loving (or both) furiously and passionately and savagely. So, hey, let's wake up and re-read this one together. "What are we missing?" may be the perfect place to start....more info
  • Unique and Scientific
    I had just finished Walden and I was hoping Pilgrim At Tinker Creek would be a little easier reading. It was and I liked the book very much. It reminded me of Mary Oliver's Blue Pastures with the descriptions of the natural world. The flow of the book was better than Blue Pastures as Dillard's book seems to tell a story about her home and surroundings. She writes about how people interact with nature and how humans try to make nature fit into their ways of life. This is illustrated by the story of the town people trying to get rid of the starling population.
    You can tell the author loves nature by all of her vivid descriptions. Some of them like the frog having the life sucked out of him are graphic enough that parents of young children might want to censor the book. Dillard views nature as it really is. She epitomizes the survival of the fittest; there is no sugar coating on what she sees and describes. I especially liked the descriptions of the spiders that she let live in her house just so she could observe them and how they contributed to nature's processes.
    Dillard's book would be an excellent book for parents to expose their children since most children today do not see nature unless it is on a video game. The book lends great insight on the outdoors from the brilliance of a summer storm to the coming to life of Tinker Creek in the spring. Dillard's knowledge of biology is well illustrated as she describes many of life processes from the creation of atoms to the death of a gold fish.
    The reader can walk side by side with Dillard as she contemplates life and its complexities. I can guarantee that once you have read this book you will not look at a walk in the woods in the same way ever again. Dillard takes a long hard look at what is out there and makes you realize that life is not always exactly as it seems.
    ...more info
  • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
    I want to like Annie Dillard, I really do. I think the world is a better place because Annie Dillard thinks and writes as she does. But, the bugs. Lots and lots of looking at, thinking about, and describing bugs. Some other creatures too, both larger and smaller than bugs, but mostly bugs.

    As much as I appreciate the conclusions Dillard draws about the natural world and the nature of God, her minute observations about critters and plants could barely hold my attention. I took pious pleasure in finishing the book, like I had done something that, while a little boring, had it's interesting moments and made me a better person - kind of like going to church. ...more info
  • A Trip Into The Life And Times Of A Questionably Sane Person
    This book, while certainly entertaining to some people, has no other purpose than to bore high school students. While considered to be an American classic by some, the book has no "great story" to set it apart from any of the other books out there.
    This book is most like the book Walden by Henry David Thoreau. While Walden was appallingly boring at times (being that old, the language makes it that way--nothing that can be done about that) it at least had philosophy, thoughts about society, nature stuff, and his own experiences about living in the woods. However Dillard talks about nature and seems to know or care nothing about society or the world about her, just the praying mantis in front of her. She also talks about the frogs at the creek getting sucked out dry, praying mantises, a little about a flood, praying mantis mating habits, rubbing a puppy, finding mantis eggs, and praying mantises. So you can obviously tell that she is a very diversified person. Hunting muskrats don't go much further.
    On the outside Pilgrim may seem like just another Walden, but whereas Walden itself was slightly unorganized (all of the chapters were organized very broadly--by season) the individual chapters muddled around with little stories and tales, at the end of the chapter Thoreau pulled it all together and it made some sort of sense. Dillard starts at the second or third paragraph of a chapter and then writes the first paragraph after she is done with the whole rest of the chapter! That way, the mysterious, unquestionably idiotic enterprises she consumes herself with make no sense whatsoever and fail to connect with a common reader like Walden did.
    For all common purposes in normal people, this book makes great fire-starters. However for those that are a little more "imaginative" or "out there" than us down to Earth normal people, this book is for you. You chosen ones will be able to follow the randomness--we cannot....more info
  • All form, no substance
    Annie Dillard is indeed a talented illusionist. She deftly mixes random facts, poetic phrasing, and a mystical bent into a sticky sugary mass, wraps it around a core of fuzzy thinking, and presents it as a meaningful work of art. If you are easily dazzled by turns of phrase or impressed by scientific facts you may not already know, then you may think, for a fleeting second, that she's actually saying something. Let me save you some time: she's not. She's just really into nature, that's all. What are the implications? She's not even sure. She has plenty to say about it though. She drones on and on about a world of private feelings and fantasies that only she can truly fathom. Its like reading about the elaborate delusional world of a highly intelligent shizophrenic. The more she writes, the more the sensitive reader will feel that she is just pouring forth a stream of pretty, but ultimately meaningless, words. This book should be approached as simple entertainment and nothing more. Content-wise, there is as much to live by here as you'll find in the latest John Grisham novel....more info
  • For the Nature Lover
    Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is a different kind of book, but unique in its own way. It is an in depth look at nature, and Annie Dillard's experiences in it. Dillard not only looks at the splendor of nature, but she also describes in detail the horrible acts that take place there. This book is not for the faint and lighthearted from that perspective, for there are some extremely graphic scenes. However, after reading past some of the more unpleasant material, Dillard rewards the reader with beautifully written figurative language that gives the book incredible imagery. This book provides food for thought and teaches the reader to look closer at things that may seem insignificant. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek also offers interesting facts and comical stories. In all, the book is well written. I like to think of it as a stepping stone to the more complex and philosophical book, Walden. For the nature lover and budding transcendentalist, this is an excellent book....more info
  • Brilliant book that rewards for years to come
    I read this book for the first time nine years ago. I was captivated by Dillard's exploration of the world around her. I read one quote on the book that says she rushes in with "headlong urgency" and I couldn't agree more. There are passages in this book that I have read and re-read over the years, even ones that I packed with me on a pilgrimage of my own across Spain. I found a new level of understanding in the words and was unable to unlock the true wonder of her writing. Not necessarily an easy read, a butterfly flying over a building can take two pages, but this book is as gorgeous and profound as the story is timeless....more info
  • Loved it!
    Don Miller mentions it as one of those books that you read a paragraph of and then put away and ponder. Intense writing and thinking. Stream of consciousness type of stuff. Makes me want to spend more time outdoors watching and thinking....more info
  • She flies her sentences like a kite.
    I enjoyed it immensely, even if its sentences are overwrought often to an annoying degree. I appreciate how she looks at the world in poetry: the world is a painting, and we are the poets charged with understanding it. The thing about Dillard is that in spite of the fact that her uber-emotive imagination stands in that place in her brain where my philosopher/mathematician stands in mine, she can still ask brilliant--even terrible--questions without all of the normal dillusions about what the alternative answers really are.

    There are downsides: the overdone sentences, the fact that not every chapter drove forward toward the point--or even manifested her goal. But one reads her and agrees, at the end of it, that yes, she earned that Pulitzer after all.

    And to all of the "bright AP English" students out there, for goodness sake put the book down and leave the book reviews alone. It just isn't for you. Pick it up again once you've lived some more of life....more info

  • Utterly pointless
    I found this book on I am an avid Barbara Kingsolver fan and thought I would try one of the books that was linked to Kingsolver's books. I chose this book for the bookclub I am hosting for twelve members this coming month.

    The book is utterly pointless. The writing is sometimes interesting and there are a few good thoughts, but mostly it is the disjointed and uneducated thoughts of a crazy person living on the edge of society.

    I have not finished the book and wish I had not subjected the other readers in my club to the "story". I cannot recommend this book. ...more info
  • A Poetic Pilgrim, At Best
    After reading Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, I have come to the conclusion that Annie Dillard is a master of imagery and figurative language. From similes to metaphors to personification, Dillard's various forms of imagery make the reader feel like one is really there at Tinker Creek, nestled in Virginia's Blue Ridge. The book also possesses some unique sentence structure and some wonderful circle effect in most chapters.Filled with telegraphic sentences and personal anecdotes,the book is distinctly a work of Annie Dillard.This book certainly holds artistic value, and it is the quintessence of figurative writing. It is for this alone that I can understand why the book received a Pulitzer Prize.

    Dillard is obviously exceedingly well-read, and illustrates this fact throughout Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. She employs allusions to the Bible , the Koran, and to the works of her predecessor,Henry David Thoreau. In fact, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is modeled somewhat like Thoreau's Walden. Both books explicitly, and often verbosely, describe the natural world. While Walden is also mingled with intellectual philosophy, Pilgim at Tinker Creek is solely a book which discusses nature. Dillard poetically describes nature while serving no other purpose than to do just that. This book is a textbook of natural history and a guide to poetic writing. The problem with the book is there is no real substance to it. The book has no thesis and is essentially a conglomerate of descriptive ramblings. Walden, while not my definition of good reading, does at least mention some relevant truths about human nature.

    So if you would like to read about all the details of the insect world, including the mating habits of the praying mantis, this is the book for you. Dillard, yearning to gain knowledge, plunges into nature hoping to learn more. I plunged into this this book hoping it would be better than Walden, and I found it to be worse. This book is only enjoyable for those with a profound love of nature. For everyone else it may not be enjoyable, but it will command an appreciation for its poetic language and style. ...more info
  • pilgrim at tinker creek
    I found this book boring...I KNOW it was a Pulitzer prize winner. But, to
    me, oh, so boring...

    Annie Dillard is an excellent writer of course, and I loved her little
    book, The Writing Life.

    ...more info
  • An Interesting Read from an Interesting Author
    Overall, a very interesting read. The adjective "interesting" can be taken in more than one sense, however. For example,
    A. The subject matter found within is unique and intriguing, revealing tidbits about nature one would not discover in a normal lifetime.
    B. Writing styles and techniques change throughout the book. At times Dillard is darkly pessimistic, while turning around a few sentences later to include some light wit. There is a lot of imaginative figurative language found that augments the writing a good deal.
    C. The author herself is an ... amusing person. I never would have thought one person could be so thoroughly interested in nature, at least if I had not read Walden, by Henry David Thoreau, before.
    And since the topic of Walden comes up, a comparison of the two would be appropriate. Dillard is much more appropriate for a modern audience. Both contain many insightful thoughts about nature and its relation to life, but you have to sift through a good deal of gunk to get to those points in Walden.
    So, I would recommend this book, along with Walden, to anyone willing to take it seriously and probably get grossed out a few times. The time and mental strain will be worth it in the end....more info
  • A pretty hollow imitation of Walden
    Apparently, Ms. Dillard fancied herself being Henry David Thoreau -- she even named her pet goldfish Ellery Channing (Channing was Thoreau's lifelong friend). Structurally this book is organized similar to Walden, and it is Walden that Ms. Dillard tried to emulate.

    The book starts with a bloody, filthy and delirious little episode with a tom cat. Fortunately, the whole book is much more forgiving. There is no doubt that Ms. Dillard is well-read, as she gives us excerpts from Fabre, Edwin Way Teale, Marius von Senden, etc., stories about different animals, the Eskimos and facts about sciences (even Quantum Mechanics), which are quite fascinating to read. It is also no question that she has a flowering pen, her vivid descriptions of nature and events are scattered throughout the book and I especially enjoy the chapters "Flood" and "Stalking".

    However, to think that this book is merely an observation of the natural environment and the flora and fauna in it would be a mistake. For one thing, there are actually not that many narratives of first-person observations. The book consists of three main themes: 1. description of the natural environment; 2. anecdotes and stories from other sources; 3. the author's own reflection about theology and spirituality. The first theme probably only occupies one third of the book.

    In the end, what we have here is vastly different from Walden. Reading Walden gives one delight, hope, and a sense of liberation -- from the everyday quiet desperation. I don't get much of these from "Tinker Creek". Yes, Ms. Dillard is a keen observer and writes very well, but her main focus is not nature, but instead her religious ruminations. It is very much different from Walden, or Desert Solitaire, or many other books in this genre: in the other books the authors do offer some opinions and reflections, but they are mainly description of natural phenomena, the opinions and reflections are sparkles that give them life, an upshot so to speak. In "Pilgrim", the relationship is reversed; the narratives of nature comes second to, and is dictated by, the author's theological pondering. The book on a whole gives me the impression of a theological discourse rather than a nature book. I also get the feeling that the author is more inward looking, in a sense she is more self-absorbed, often delirious, and sometimes narcissistic. It is really a book about a "pilgrim"; that she happens to be at Tinker Creek is largely coincidental, and probably irrelevant.

    Another thread that keeps popping up in the book is her thoughts about a "creator" -- I don't mean to make this a "evolution vs. creationism" debate, but since this is in the book itself and carries much weight, I figured I have every right to comment on it. This is permeated throughout the book, but most strongly in "Fecundity". It is interesting that Ms. Dillard does not actually reject evolution; in fact, she gives us many scientific facts about biology (especially entomology), ecology, etc., one is inclined to believe that she actually accepts it. She goes on to say how "wasteful" nature is in creating a lot of things and then discarding them (which is true and she made a good case by giving us a lot of interesting facts), but then wonders how a creator can be so inefficient. Well, maybe the answer is right at your fingertips, Ms. Dillard, perhaps you should just do away with that first assumption, like Laplace did.

    I may be harsh in giving it 3 stars (I would give it 3.5 if I could), but my expectations were much higher (probably it had something to do with the Pulitzer Price)....more info
  • I do wish I could write like that...
    I read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (along with Island by Aldous Huxley) a few months ago when I was really searching through my soul. At the time I was really confused about life, this book didn't help much, but it was still amazing. I spend time in a cemetary near my house, and numerous times, I have tried to write about it in the style that Annie Dillard does, with sensitivity, grace, and subtle humor. As of now, I am reading my second book by Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk, and it is wonderful. Read it slowly, chew it, digest it, let it soak in a while. It's great how she compares human nature to the lives of animals. I sometimes wish I could see Tinker Creek, I mean really SEE it....more info
  • Truly enlightening
    This book started as an assignment, but after a while it was more for enjoyment rather than necessity. Not only is Annie Dillard's skill with writing top notch, but her sense of observation is very keen. There were some chapters, ones such as "Seeing" that even changed my outlook on life and the things that I take for granted everyday.
    It was not all seriousness, either. I liked the fact that Annie Dillard actually had a sense of humor, which unfortunately, is something that most authors lack. Her writing style was educated and yet showed that she still had the basic human instincts and feelings that all people have, whether they use them or not.
    Her plot was something that I think we can all relate to: the struggle and balance between all that is beautiful and all that is ugly. Some are unwilling to admit it, but we all notice the brutalities that exist within the beauties and I think Dillard described them best in this book. I recommend it to anyone who treasures wisdom, for this is a truly enlightening book....more info
  • Read this book if you want to think
    When I started this book for my 7th grade Humanities class, I didn't really know what to expect. I started it a week later than my classmates, and kept hearing conflicting opinions. It was really long, it was fairly short, it was hard to pay attention to and hard to understand, it sucked you in and made sure you got the message. Now that I've read it, I've come to agree with the last opinion. For me, Tinker Creek was like looking through someone else's eyes at the world. Once I started reading, it was hard to stop.
    The only problem I think is that it jumps around a lot, and even though some trains of thought she follows up on later in the book, most are left hanging when you wanted to know more about them. However, I still thought it was a great book, if a tad heavy on metaphors.
    ...more info
  • One of the greatest American nature classics
    In my opinion, the three greatest nature classics of the last half of the twentieth century were A SAND COUNTY ALMANAC by Aldo Leopold, DESERT SOLITAIRE by Edward Abbey, and this remarkable book by Annie Dillard, PILGRIM AT TINKER CREEK. The three authors make a fine study in contrast: a chain-smoking scientist, professor, and forester in Leopold; a shoot-from-the-hip anarchist, pagan, and provocateur in Abbey; and the poetical, contemplative, and religious Dillard. Leopold looks at nature and sees a self-contained ethical entity; Abbey looks at a mountain and sees merely a mountain; Dillard looks at a goldfish's fin and sees god.

    I have to confess that in my own reading, I lean heavily towards dead people. It is not that I do not want to support living writers; I just am not always certain which writers are fads. The great virtue of dead authors is that they have withstood the test of time. I have made an exception over the years of Annie Dillard. She has a wonderful eye, a vivid imagination, a wonderful prose style, and can tease insight out of the most unlikely of sources. Although she has authored many wonderful books--TEACHING A STONE TO TALK, THE WRITING LIFE, LIVING BY FICTION, AN AMERICAN CHILDHOOD--this early book remains in many ways my favorite. In it Dillard looks intently at nature, and wherever she looks she finds God.

    The book on one level is a modern reiteration of the existence of God, the resurrection of the cosmological argument for his existence. I admit its power. Of the traditional arguments for the existence of god, I have never felt the power of the more celebrated ontological and teleological arguments. The latter I never felt especially compelling, while the former always seems to be a mental trick, hard for a newcomer to philosophy to refute, but an argument one instinctively feels to be bogus. But I admit that I have felt the power of moral arguments for God's existence (a two edged sword, since one can easily concoct argument's for God's nonexistence based on pain and suffering, as Ivan does so memorably in the "Rebellion" chapter in THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV). But even atheistic thinkers have confessed the power of the cosmological argument, though it isn't an argument so much as a sensation created in us as we contemplate nature. Atheistic David Hume confessed it difficult not to imagine a Creator when observing the heavens, and the somewhat more religious Immanuel Kant proclaimed that two things filled his heart with wonder: the moral law within and the starry heavens above (and in both places he found a necessity for a deistical god).

    Dillard, as she gazes about her in the Shenandoah Valley, finds many wondrous things to contemplate. She writes beautifully about all she looks at, and if she is sometimes mildly guilty of the anthropomorphizing that Edward Abbey railed so passionately against (a mountain doesn't "feel" anything, he argued; a mountain simpley "is"), she also writes about everything she looks at with a nontrivial prose that never takes anything for granted, and which is intent on giving every entity its due. Ultimately, she writes about God.

    Although the book as a whole is remarkable, the highpoint for me are two extraordinary chapters, chapters that express the cosmological sentiment better than anything else I have ever read. The first of these is "Intricacy," in which she delves into the amazing complexity and diversity of the designs of nature. Her discovery is that nature doesn't tend towards simplicity, but to its opposite. As she gazes about, she concludes "Look, in short, at practically anything--the coot's feet, the mantis's face, a banana, the human ear--and see that not only did the creator create everything, but that he is apt to create ANYTHING. He'll stop at nothing." The other chapter I want to mention is "Fecundity," which ends up as a sort of Sheer Quantity Argument for the Existence of God. We think of evolution (a theory she wishes to embellish rather than deny) as being economical, tending towards simplicity. But Dillard is astonished at the sheer fecundity of nature, that "In a single cubic inch of soil, the length of the root hairs [of the rye plant] totaled 6000 miles." She is also cognizant of the maximal implications of cosmological arguments for believing in god: they point to a creator, but not to what kind of creator. As she puts it, "We have not yet encountered any god who is as merciful as a man who flicks a beetle over on its feet." I delight in many of her conclusions as she regards nature. "Although it is true that we are moral creatures in an amoral world, the world's amorality does not make it a monster." Or, "Nature love the idea of an individual, if not the individual himself." The book is stuffed to overflowing with reflections like this....more info

  • Opens your eyes
    This unique book is a series of musings by a remarkable, intelligent woman, living alone near a creek in Virginia. Often compared to Thoreau's Walden, it focuses on the natural world of the creek and the forest. This isn't just a book for nature-lovers, though. Reading this was like walking through a desert and finding an oasis. I randomly chose this book from a list to read for my Environmental Literature class. I also had to write a ten-page paper on it--it was certainly the most fun I've ever had writing a paper, simply because Dillard gives the read so very much to think about.

    Her language is quite wonderful--she has a beautiful way of describing things that make them crystal-clear. So many times I wanted to mark passages, but it was a library book so I could not--instead I copied them down as I read. Later I bought a copy of the book for myself to own.

    The musings themselves are about a multitude of things, but they all seem interrelated, just as nature is. Dillard deals with seeing, with perspective, with memory--all with this amazing clarity. Her knowledge is considerable; besides being incredibly well-read, she has turned observing into an art--which allows her see things most of us would miss. And that's why reading her perspective is so valuable....more info

  • Too Easily Misinterpreted
    Pilgrim at tinker creek is an overly praised Pulitzer Prize winning work. Almost every review you read about it is positive and encouraging towards the purchase of the book, however, there are always those few sour apples that put a stop to that. Now, I am not going to be one of those sour apples, instead, I am merely going to be a voice acknowledging their point of view. So here goes nothing:

    To begin with Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is unintentionally written for a select audience. Therefore, if you do not correspond with these select few then you probably misinterpreted the book entirely. You see, those who are not members of these select spectators saw PaTC as simply 277 pages of pointless, mindless, free association intersperse quotations. And in a sense they are correct. Dillard may have a way with words and detailed imagery but that alone is not sturdy grounds for a good book. In fact, Dillard lacks the one thing that makes a book generally worth reading (that is to those who once again are not into the philosophical manipulation of life), a point. She states no thesis. She has no plot. She has no characters, and so, she really says nothing (at least, to those who refuse to look).

    Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is a book about seeing, and the necessity to see what lies in front of one's eyes. Through intense imagery and sensory detail Dillard describes what she knows best: nature. She discusses a multitude of different animals and insects proving her knowledge and love for this subject. But her mentioning of these creatures is not (once again as so many presume) without purpose, for it only continues to prove her point that there are things to see in this word.

    Pilgrim at Tinker Creek has a simplistic hidden theme which is shadowed over by the complex structure of the book. Dillard's masterpiece is not the ideas suggested and modeled in the book, instead it is her masterful control of the English language. Her work is rich with details that are not just there for the sake of description (as most think). It is a carefully crafted prose narrative that delves into theology, existentialism, transcendentalism, and natural history, addressing the relationship between man and God. This can be captivating but also the most confusing part. After all, through her never ending biblical references and mind boggling metaphors it becomes overwhelmingly easy for someone to get lost and simply misinterpret everything. So when you pick up Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and actually begin reading simply try to keep both your eyes and mind open wide enough to discover its real hidden treasures.

    ...more info
  • Unique and Interesting
    The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek makes it seem as if it should be an interesting yet pleasant book. However Annie Dilliard writes in such manner that it is somewhat interesting and no where near pleasant. Her syntax, or sentence structure should I say is very interesting. There are many one-word sentences and one sentence paragraphs as well. Also she uses many gory details to describe the different things happening in nature. From the moth in the jar to the waterbug sucking the living daylights out of the frog; she tells nature as it is. The chapter on Fecundity is also very vivid one could say. Her thoughs seem random, but as one goes through the book they begin to see it all come together. If you do not read the whole book, it will seem like a bunch of jibber-jabber. Also there is a lot of symbolism throughout the book. The changing of the seasons is one of them. Changing from spring to fall to winter synbolises going from deatch to rebirth. It is not easy to catch on to these symbols. Also most of everything she says, she relates to humans. One other unique thing i found out was that she is a fan of Henry David Thoreau. Earlier this year i read Walden by Thoreau and I did not think it was the greatests of books. She makes a couple of allusions/references to him. I was not the least bit surprised reading across his name. If you have read Walden by Thoreau, Pilgirm at Tinker Creek is somewhat similar to it. This book is not for young teens, it will bore the crap out of them. ...more info
  • Amicable yet aimless stroll through Virginia's Blue Ridge
    Dillard describes herself as "a wanderer with a background in theology and a penchant for quirky facts." Published thirty years ago, "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" is a pleasant if somewhat aimless journal that combines a rather jejune spirituality with lots of those "quirky facts"--anecdotes and observations that flavor the accounts of her wanderings through the fields, meadows, and woods surrounding her home. Monitoring a flood caused by a hurricane, stalking an unwary muskrat, tracking the life cycle of a mantis--little escapes her attention, and she supplements her explorations with fascinating tidbits she has gathered from her readings. Although the book ostensibly cycles through the seasons, from winter through summer and back again, her recollections are randomly presented, if organized very loosely by theme.

    I'll add my two cents to the Dillard vs. Thoreau debate. While many readers--especially high school students--don't see much of a resemblance (mostly because Dillard is so much easier to read), Dillard herself invites comparison by mentioning Thoreau's work half a dozen times. Her style, like Thoreau's, is informal, and her powers of observation are keen. Yet, in my view, there is one important difference between the two writers: Dillard appears to have no interest with the human issues that preoccupied Thoreau: race relations, political activism, egalitarianism--and even environmentalism. In this book especially, Dillard rarely strays from "nature writing," with the exception of a few short passages pondering the role of the "creator" and the place of humans in the universe and one ill-conceived section in which she mangles quantum physics in metaphorical support of some insights on "mysticism."

    Many readers are enamored by Dillard's prose style, and I will confess to bafflement on this point. All too often, she abandons understated lyricism for Hemingway-inspired simplicity: "It is winter proper; the cold weather, such as it is, has come to stay." "It is early March." "It is spring." "Now it is May." "It's summer... It's summer now: the heat is on. It's summer now all summer long." "In September the birds were quiet." As with Hemingway's work, Dillard's writing can sometimes be elegant in its simplicity, but just as often, I found that she had forsaken the realm of the simple for the simplistic (and even the simple-minded). The paucity of her own prose becomes most apparent when she quotes or paraphrases other authors (such as Edwin Way Teale, whose book on insects provided much of the source material for the mesmerizing episodes in her chapter on "Fecundity").

    Dillard confesses that she is "not a scientist"--and she is certainly not a philosopher. Her abstract musings are unsophisticated; the chapter on "The Present," for example, is notable for its fuzziness: "What I call innocence is the spirit's unself-conscious state at any moment of pure devotion to any object. It is at once a receptiveness and total concentration." During passages like these, Dillard is no longer serving up pop metaphysics, she's unabashedly belaboring the obvious.

    More than a few readers and critics have accused Dillard's works of being hollow and pointless, but I'm not sure I would go that far; her books do contain some beautiful and consequential descriptions. Yet, ultimately, it's a matter of taste: I prefer the meatier, methodic, thesis-driven, grounded works of such writers as Rachel Carson, John McPhee, Diane Ackerman, and (yes) Thoreau to Dillard's sauntering diaries....more info

  • It's no Walden.....
    After reading Walden for my AP English class, I personally never wanted to look at nature again, so I was not looking forward to Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, especially since it was about nature. Ew. However, I was suprised to find it somewhat enjoyable. Compared to the 30 pages I read in Walden, I read just about all of Pilgrim, minus one and a half chapters (sorry, Mrs. Lane!). Dillard uses delicate, but edgy diction, many anecdotes, and so much imagery it was practically leaking onto my nice, dress code compliant shirt. I even came upon some humor in the book, which I always find to be a plus. But the best part of the book, I'd have to say, is that it is NOT Walden. Sure, that can be said of any book (other than Walden, I suppose), but I think that after reading Thoreau's take on nature, reading PaTC was like eating chocolate cake after eating a shoe. Or a woodchuck....more info
  • What was promised
    Took about a week to get book, but knew this, arrived in great shape. Happy customer , would buy again....more info
  • Ponder while "patting the puppy"
    Annie Dillard's novel, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, was not my top choice in books to read at first. We were assigned to read it in my AP English class. She seemed like another wannabe Thoreau, but my view changed after finishing her novel. She has a distinct style unlike Thoreau in his novel Walden. She has many philosophies about life and encorporates them by comparing her philosophies to nature and instinct. Her imagery is sharp and grasping. You can see what she sees, feel what she feels, and hear what she hears. She always wraps up her ideas in a full circle referring back to her previous comments on the subject so it all fits like a puzzle. Her style and diction create a great book for nature lovers and anyone with questions about things we overlook in life, like living in the present (patting the puppy). I highly reccommend this book to anyone with time on their hands and open-minded to think and ponder the possibilities....more info
  • a review by a 7th grader
    I found this book very confusing, but interesting. She (the author) is a very descriptive writer, but it is hard to decipher her meaning through the complexity. She rarely talks about other people, but instead she talks about her own experiences. If you can get past the way it is written, it holds interesting concepts.
    "When I was quite young, I fondly imagined that all forighn languages were codes for English" is the start of one of her curious topics. If this book only had one word in it it would be the word "nature." That is what the book is built around ant the topic it never leaves. If you are a determined reader and love the natural world, this is definitely the book for you.
    i read this for a school assignment, so i am probably not old enough to understand it completely...more info
  • It was a book that I read that I really liked
    So I read this book. While reading it and upon finishing it I came to the strong conclusion that I really enjoy(ed) this book. It's a book about looking deeper into things, exploring possibly everything around and being amazed by it. The chapter on sight is one of my favorite chapters in any book. This is a rich book. This book, if you let it, will make you a deeper person. I think I'm going to go a read it again....more info
  • Always a classic
    Pilgrim At Tinker Creek & Holy The Firm, by the same author, should be the first books in anyone's library. Dillard shares her insight into life with her readers and one cannot remain unchanged by her words!

    If you don't have either book, buy it now! ...more info
  • Genius!
    For all lovers and admirers of Henry David Thoreau, this book is a great revival and devlopment of the general love of nature that seems all too lacking in our society today. Dillard's prose is so unique, she is one of the very best! Every line reads like poetry, using eloquent words and uncovering deep epiphanies about life. It's a fresh look at nature and the philosophy of mankind in our place on this earth....more info
  • Conent or Creation
    As a part of our AP Language and Composition Class, I was given the task of reading two books I ordinarly would have never even pulled off the shelf, much less read cover to cover. The two books were Walden by Henry David Thoreau and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. I must say I was dredding reading them both, but now, five hundred and some odd pages later, I must say I am glad I was made to experience them.
    The books themselves are compared most often, many say the message is the same and both Dillard and Thoreau were on the same journey; I however found they were entirely different and unique in their own ways.
    Dillard uses all forms of rhetorical techniques to appeal to all of the reader's senses. The use of similes (on almost every page I might add) shows both a crisp sense of detail and a beautiful poetic style. The many allusions to books, including the Bible, shows Dillard is well read and knowledgeable about the many interesting subjects she discusses within each chapter. Her keen sense of detail, both beautiful and disgusting at times, allows the reader to truly connect with nature and begin to see life from her perspective. The description of the people with newly restored sight has lead me to look at my own life in a new patch of color.
    Dillard has also clearly mastered the full circle effect and the use of telegraphic sentences and transitions at the percise time. Her use of ancedotes and scientific facts show her book is definitely a well construction piece of art.
    The most enjoyable part about the book is not for me was not the content, but the way in which Dillard arranged the chapters and paragraphs so carefully that the book flowed like a river from beginning to end.
    If nature and nonfiction is you thing then I would definitely recommend the book. As for Walden, good luck....more info
  • The result of relentless observation
    I first read this book in High School. I was impressed but 8 years later re-read the book to my younger sister for a class she was taking. She wasn't getting much from the book. But as I read it to her, I realized how supreme this book is among American Lit.

    Dillard's book is the result of relentless observation. Chapter by chapter she radiates a worshipful view of the natural world. Those who miss the point will complain there is "too much description" all the while missing her acute observation and beautiful prose. I have read that she wrote 15 hours a day. It seems likely since the book seems to reflect an obsessed mind.

    Also great is An American Childhood. I think she is the second greatest American writer ever after Cather....more info
  • An exceptional guide for opening eyes to the strangeness and wonder of nature
    Watch Video Here: I've been meaning to try my hand at video reviews ever since they were announced, but this is my first. It was fun to make, and turned out to be a nice way to practice shooting and editing. My hope is that this short video may inspire some to pick up and read this remarkable book.

    The footage in the video is obviously not from Tinker Creek, but from my own "backyard" and surrounding areas in Saint Petersburg, Florida. I captured the images using the new Flip Ultra Video Camcorder, and edited them using Apple's iMovie. The music (perhaps a bit cheesy) was composed using samples from Apple's GarageBand software. All quotations are from Dillard's book. Enjoy!...more info
  • Can't Sleep? Don't have ambien? Read Annie Dillard.
    I know this is well-written, but that doesn't make it a good read. Our weekly book group recently dove in to Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, we unanimously decided that it might be best if we moved onto something else.

    If you are ingtrigued by botany and biology, this is probably your book, but if you enjoy reading about human relationships, trust me, don't bother.

    This is the only 'highly recommended' book that I've ever given up on. ...more info
  • Resonance with nature and with readers
    The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek has a LOT to say. It has nearly as many frills as the natural world it describes--and all of them lovely--thanks to Annie Dillard's poetic style. She moves effortlessly from the most informal to the most elevated language, a feat I've rarely seen. Just as importantly, there is a bedrock of deep thought beneath Dillard's unique prose.

    Readers will enjoy this book no matter their level of comprehension, but in all likelihood, no one will understand Dillard's every nuance and message. She may or may not realize that her own writing mimicks the intricacy of nature, and with its emotional ups and downs seems to describe the change of seasons that she discusses in many of her chapters. Dillard not only thinks wisely about nature, but she also begins to resonate with it on an unconscious level. She is not merely a distanced observer, but she allows herself to truly be PRESENT, and to let her surroundings act on her. Between her conscious statements are hidden transformations.

    I'll get personal, because I think each reader's experience will be different: This book made me long to understand what she understood, and to do what she had done. My experience with this book was one of need: I felt the strong urge to mimic her foray into the nearby outdoors, and not to imitate her further, but to find equally individual conclusions for myself. ...more info
  • Not a children's book
    I can only hope that some of these negatively-posting high school students will return to Pilgrim at Tinker Creek when they have grown beyond their callow days. This book is a narrative that expresses a state of mind that I long to experience more often. I return to read it when I begin to see only concrete and politics. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is a sparkling gem....more info
  • Very Interesting and fun to read
    Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard is an exceptional book. It is like a modern day version of Walden by Henry David Thoreau. The deep thoughts and intricate details bring to life images that have not been experienced before. For example, when Dillard tells about the water bug sucking the frog, it brings to mind a very gruesome image that the reader just cannot get rid of. Yet, this image also sucks the reader in for more. Also, the exotocally intense descriptions make grotesque actions more beautiful, such as when the praying mantis lays its eggs. While writing about the praying mantis laying its eggs, Dillard seems almost frantic to get it all down. It is almost childlike, like a child who is to agitated by the sunlight and all of the beautiful things outside to stay inside and do their work. This technique makes the book more playful,fun, and attractive to young readers.

    Dillard's paragraphs are woven together into tightly knit chapters by the nice transitions. The full circle effect ties up all of the loose ends at the end of each chapter and then again at the end of the book. The similes that are throughout the book make the book very poetic and intriguing. Dillard's obsessiveness with nature is intriguing because the reader does not know what she is goint say or do next.

    Dillard's Actions bring the book to life. When she is describing running from tree to tree so that she would not be seen, the reader gets a sense of how full of life she is and how happy she is just doing simple things out in nature. Also, when she is less then four feet from the snake, she just sits there amazed by it like a child.

    I never thought that I would read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, but as a part of a class I had to. Now that I have read it, I am glad that I did read it because I thoroughly enjoyed it. I recommend it to everybody....more info

  • Brilliant contempory naturalist
    "Its like reading about the elaborate delusional world of a highly intelligent shizophrenic." Someone said this in their review (also as justification for giving 1 star). It is entirely correct. Any naturalist writer that has the ability to truly discover language in the realm of the natural world will appear to be all of those things to the standard domesticated human being. The truth of nature, botany and even poetry is that it is intricate, interwoven, extremely intelligent and insane. Annie Dillard is one of the few people in modern writing that has a small grasp of what all of that means. Sometimes, yes it's true, it doesn't MEAN anything. That in itself is beautiful.

    I was initially forced to read this book for a religious-based earth & ethics course of all things. The writing seemed spastic, sometimes overwrought with biological detail and random. I soon realized that although the style was different from many praised pieces of writing, I really liked it. It was unique. Let's face it, even Thoreau at times was long-winded with details so far-fetched that as a reader, you mostly found yourself questioning his sanity. That doesn't mean his writing isn't beautiful. Years later, as an advanced wilderness survival instructor in upper New England, I found myself pouring over many of the same thoughts both of these writers had articulated long before. "Catch it if you can."

    The writing in Pilgrim is intense; not deep, per se, as it often jumps to a light humor or interesting factoid. I've read several reviews that scoff at this. That this flight-of-fancy interconnectedness ideal has no purpose or value to a reader; the lack of human interaction is a negative aspect. If you have spent extensive periods of time isloated in a natural place and fully allow yourself to be immersed, forgetting the chaos and barbaric order of a civilized place, you can begin to see the tangible pieces of this idea come to light. There is indeed a wonderful intensity in every sight, sound, smell and happening that occurs in the natural world every day. Finding meaning and value in that is up to you, as a reader, as a living, thinking being. Ms. Dillard's writing tries to grasp the value she found for herself in the Blue Ridge country. But ultimately what she said is true: "lick a finger, feel the now."

    Excellent, excellent bit of prose....more info
  • Irrisistable
    This is the first book of hers that I have read. As has only happened a couple times, I have stumbled across an author so magnetic in her draw that I will be reading everything she has written. If you have an ear for language the hook will sink deep; I was helpless from the giant waterbug on... Come follow Dillard as she experiences life in intoxicating detail over the course of one year at her home near the oxbow of Pilgrim Creek. She is drunk with language and ideas, many so stirring at a deep personal level that I found myself leafing backwards to savor them again. The book leads the reader through a dance with nature that builds upon itself in wave after wave of discovery and revelation. I read the last page, closed the book and just sat still for many minutes in awe. What a diamaond....more info
  • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
    This was the first book of Nature Writing I had ever read as a freshman in college. It is now one of my favorites. I love Dillard's intricacies, scientific observations, detail and metaphysical tangents that weave their way about the book like so many spiderwebs. I've read most of her other nonfiction which keeps in the same tone and wonder. ...more info