Annie Dillard Biography & Facts
Annie Dillard (born April 30, 1945) is an American author, best known for her narrative prose in both fiction and non-fiction. She has published works of poetry, essays, prose, and literary criticism, as well as two novels and one memoir. Her 1974 work Pilgrim at Tinker Creek won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. From 1980, Dillard taught for 21 years in the English department of Wesleyan University, in Middletown, Connecticut.
Early life and An American Childhood
Annie Dillard was the eldest of three daughters. Early childhood details can be drawn from Annie Dillard's autobiography, An American Childhood (1987), about growing up in the 50s Point Breeze neighborhood of Pittsburgh in "a house full of comedians.". The book focuses on "waking up" from a self-absorbed childhood, and becoming immersed in the present moment of the larger world. She describes her mother as an energetic non-conformist. Her father taught her many useful subjects such as plumbing, economics, and the intricacies of the novel On the Road, though by the end of her adolescence she begins to realize neither of her parents is infallible.
In her autobiography, Dillard describes reading a wide variety of subjects including geology, natural history, entomology, epidemiology, and poetry, among others. Among the influential books from her youth were The Natural Way to Draw and Field Book of Ponds and Streams because they allowed her a way to interact with the present moment and a way of escape, respectively. Her days were filled with exploring, piano and dance classes, rock collecting, bug collecting, drawing, and reading books from the public library including natural history and military history such as World War II.
As a child, Dillard attended the Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, though her parents did not attend. She spent four summers at the First Presbyterian Church (FPC) Camp in Ligonier, Pennsylvania. As an adolescent, she quit attending church because of "hypocrisy". When she told her minister of her decision, she was given four volumes of C. S. Lewis's broadcast talks, from which she appreciated that author's philosophy on suffering, but elsewhere found the topic inadequately addressed.She attended Pittsburgh Public Schools until fifth grade, and then The Ellis School until college.
College and writing career
Dillard attended Hollins College (now Hollins University), in Roanoke, Virginia, where she studied literature and creative writing. She married her writing teacher, the poet R. H. W. Dillard, eight years her senior. Dillard stated: "In college I learned how to learn from other people. As far as I was concerned, writing in college didn't consist of what little Annie had to say, but what Wallace Stevens had to say. I didn't come to college to think my own thoughts, I came to learn what had been thought." In 1968 she earned an MA in English. Her thesis on Henry David Thoreau showed how Walden Pond functioned as "the central image and focal point for Thoreau's narrative movement between heaven and earth." Dillard spent the first few years after graduation oil painting, writing, and keeping a journal. Several of her poems and short stories were published, and during this time she also worked for Johnson's Anti-Poverty Program.
Dillard's works have been compared to those by Virginia Woolf, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Emily Dickinson, William Blake, and John Donne, and she cites Henry James, Thomas Hardy, Graham Greene, George Eliot, and Ernest Hemingway among her favorite authors.
Tickets for a Prayer Wheel
In her first book of poems, Tickets for a Prayer Wheel (1974), Dillard first articulated themes that she would later explore in other works of prose.
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Dillard's journals served as a source for Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974), a nonfiction narrative about the natural world near her home in Roanoke, Virginia. Although the book contains named chapters, it is not (as some critics assumed) a collection of essays. Early chapters were published in The Atlantic, Harpers, and Sports Illustrated. The book describes God by studying creation, leading one critic to call her "one of the foremost horror writers of the 20th Century." In The New York Times, Eudora Welty said the work was "admirable writing" that reveals "a sense of wonder so fearless and unbridled... [an] intensity of experience that she seems to live in order to declare," but "I honestly don't know what [Dillard] is talking about at... times."The book won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. Dillard was 29.
Holy the Firm
One day, Dillard decided to begin a project in which she would write about whatever happened on Lummi Island within a three-day time period. When a plane crashed on the second day, Dillard began to contemplate the problem of pain and God's allowance of "natural evil to happen". Although Holy the Firm (1977) was only 66 pages long, it took her 14 months, writing full-time, to complete the manuscript. In The New York Times Book Review novelist Frederick Buechner called it "a rare and precious book." Some critics wondered whether Dillard was under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs while writing the book. Dillard replied that she was not.
Teaching a Stone to Talk
Teaching a Stone to Talk (1982) is a book of 14 short nonfiction narrative and travel essays. The essay "Life on the Rocks: The Galapagos" won the New York Women's Press Club award, and "Total Eclipse" was chosen for Best American Essays of the [20th] Century (2000). As Dillard herself notes, "'The Weasel is lots of fun; the much-botched church service is (I think) hilarious." Following the first hardcover edition of the book, the order of essays was changed. Initially "Living Like Weasels" was first, followed by "An Expedition to the Pole." "Total Eclipse" was found between "On a Hill Far Away" and "Lenses."
The essays in Teaching a Stone to Talk:
"An Expedition to the Pole"
"In the Jungle"
"Living Like Weasels"
"The Deer at Providencia"
"Teaching a Stone to Talk"
"On a Hill Far Away"
"Life on the Rocks: The Galapagos"
"A Field of Silence"
"God in the Doorway"
"Aces and Eights"Living by Fiction
In Living by Fiction (1982), Dillard produced her "theory about why flattening of character and narrative cannot happen in literature as it did when the visual arts rejected deep space for the picture plane." She later said that, in the process of writing this book, she talked herself into writing an old-fashioned novel.
Encounters with Chinese Writers
Encounters with Chinese Writers (1984) is a work of journalism. One part takes place in China, where Dillard was a member of a delegation of six American writers and publishers, following the fall of the Gang of Four. In the second half, Dillard hosts a group of Chinese writers, whom she takes to Disneyland along with Allen Ginsberg. Dillard describes it as "hilarious."
The Writing Life
The Writing Life (1989) is a .... Discover the Annie Dillard popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Annie Dillard books.