Thursday, June 14, 2007

Author Du Jour: Annie Dillard

To honor the recent release of Annie Dillard's new novel, The Maytrees, we are dedicating today's posts to a variety of web-culled odds and ends relating to the author.

The Basics:
Enjoy Wikipedia's brief bio of Annie Dillard, or head on over to the author's own website for her version of events. (Scroll down the main page of Dillard's website for a witty description of how and why she came to start it in the first place.)

The New Book:
As a part of their summer reading series, NPR has an audio clip of Dillard reading from The Maytrees, as well as a written excerpt.

Also of interest are a few reviews. USA Today, The Seattle Times, Miami Herald, New York Observer.

Two Interviews With The Author:
Lunch with Annie Dillard (1982 Malcolm Lawrence)
A brief interview where the author advises young writers to 'imitate, citing personal examples of the French symbolist poets, Old Testament poetry (Song of Solomon, Isaiah) and Wallace Stevens as original models for her poetry.'

She also recommends journalism classes to creative writing courses, saying, "Journalism teaches you to think of the reader. The trouble with people who major in creative writing is they often think the point of writing is to impress people, instead of to appeal to people. (For creative writing majors) the ideal courses to take are journalism and literature. I don’t think creative writing is such a great think to take, period, because you learn better how to take a text apart and put it back together from a literature course. And from a journalism course you learn how to appeal to the reader and organize your material. I’m hard put to say what you learn from a creative writing course. The people who major in English seem to have a really good understanding of how texts work. I wish I had more journalism majors in my classes, because I teach them just what they want to know."

Ideas Are Tough; Irony Is Easy (1996 Grace Suh)
Here Dillard lists her favorite authors, describes the havoc she wrecked on her body writing her first novel, and offers this advice to writers: "You have enough experience by the time you're five years old. What you need is the library. What you have to learn is the best of what is being thought and said. If you had a choice between spending a summer in Nepal and spending a summer in the library, go to the library."

An Essay on the Author:
The Ecolotheology of Annie Dillard: A Study in Ambivalence (1984 Pamela A. Smith)
Despite the fact that Dillard has said, "If I wanted to make a theological statement I would have hired a skywriter," the essayist holds a magnifying glass up to the writer's minutiae-filled work, attempting to 'find God in the details,' as they say.