Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

by Annie Dillard


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Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is the story of a dramatic year in Virginia's Roanoke Valley. Annie Dillard sets out to see what she can see. What she sees are astonishing incidents of "beauty tangled in a rapture with violence."

Her personal narrative highlights one year's exploration on foot in the Virginia region through which Tinker Creek runs. In the summer, Dillard stalks muskrats in the creek and contemplates wave mechanics; in the fall, she watches a monarch butterfly migration and dreams of Arctic caribou. She tries to con a coot; she collects pond water and examines it under a microscope. She unties a snake skin, witnesses a flood, and plays King of the Meadow with a field of grasshoppers. The result is an exhilarating tale of nature and its seasons.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061233326
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/10/2013
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 64,069
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.68(d)
Lexile: 1100L (what's this?)

About the Author

Annie Dillard has written twelve books,including in nonfiction For the Time Being, Teaching a Stone to Talk, Holy the Firm, and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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Pilgrim at Tinker Creek 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 67 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Though most other high schoolers who reviewed this book disliked it, I read it as a sophomore and absolutely loved it. After nearly every single page, paragraph, or mind-boggling idea, I would literally jump up, elated, and try to explain what was so amazing to whoever happened to be in the room. Dillard manages to pack hundreds of original, thought-provoking images and ideas into the novel with vivid, striking language. The book isn't a particularly quick read, but Dillard retains the reader's interest with unexpected bits of science and stunning sentences sprinkled (and sometimes heavily poured) throughout. If you have, as Dillard does, "a brain-pouch, catching and absorbing small bits that fall deeply into [your] open eye," this book is for you. If the passage "...the universe has continued to deal exclusively in extravagances, flinging intricacies and colossi down aeons of emptiness, heaping profusions on profligacies with ever-fresh vigor" makes you want to explode with appreciation for words, this book is for you. If you're struggling to find beauty or natural (but not necessarily religious) spirituality within our seemingly brutal world, read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.
theKale More than 1 year ago
Annie Dillard's writing at its best. Contrary to what the high school students who give this work one star seem to think, a book doesn't always have to chronicle a definite story with formulaic heroes fighting formulaic villains (I am tempted to say that these students have no soul, but I'll hold off). That said, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek does indeed have a plot. It is the plot of the whole world, and God's plan in it. Dillard's writing is poignant, profound, and sensual. She ties herself to the world she lives in, showing how the land we are raised in is a part of who we are. Pilgrim is, in its core, a soul-baring - it is Dillard letting us see the world through her eyes. And a beautiful sight it is.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The negative reviews on this page are not suprising (although they are very amusing.) You would be hardpressed to find another book with the polarity of responses recorded here, with the same strength of reactions. This speaks to the nature of this wonderful book. This narrative requires an appreciation of a strong literary voice, a patience not found in most readers, and an open mind. A love of the natural world helps as well, though if you can appreciate the tone of the book, there is a good chance that Ms Dillard will instill a love of nature, or at least portray the world in which we live in a new light. Every time I pick this book up I am amazed, every time I am enthralled and mesmerized. The writer of these pages possesses a mind of unparalleled originality and brilliance. How these words were assembled into one volume is at once mysterious and wonderful. The bottom line is that this is one of the best books ever put to print. Unfortunately, that which makes it great also makes it relatively unaccessable. This is not a page turner. It requires patience. Read ten pages at a time so as not to become oversaturated. So, either you will get it or not. Either you will cherish it forever, or wish to set it to fire. I hope beyond hope, however, you will not be one of the latter.
Frisbeesage More than 1 year ago
Listening to the audio version of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is like having a lovely conversation with Annie Dillard. She meanders through whatever subject crosses her mnds, exclaiming over muskrats, frogs, and praying mantis. She wonders about the meaning of the things she encounters on her walks along Tinker Creek and then she forgets about meaning and just admires the beauty of it all. Her prose is gorgeous, more poetry then mere nonfiction writing. She's young, and it shows in her exuberant sometimes overly gushing enthusiasm. Her musings can be random and seem disconnected, but are more often charming and conversational. I enjoyed this chance to get to know Annie Dillard and the landscape she loved. I listened to this book on audio read by Tavia Gilbert. She does a fantastic job of capturing the energy, enthusiasm, and wonder of Annie's observations.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was a very fascinating and heavy read. I expected it to be pleasant and written with beautiful detailed writing. I was half right. It indeed had incredibly stunning writing with detail that almost bowled me over, but it was not pleasant nor calm throughout. She explained many things with gruesome detail which could be frightening at times, but very intriguing. One of my favorite sections confused me a bit a short section about how she allowed the spiders in her house to run freely about. I was confused as to why exactly it was my favorite because spiders are, and have never been, a spot of interest to me. ¿I figure that any predator that hopes to make a living on whatever small creature might blunder into a four-inch square of space in the corner or the bathroom where the tub meets the floor, needs every bit of my support.¿ This part of the section really struck me as great, thoughtful writing. I think it takes a great writer to make someone interested in a subject they have had no interest in. Some parts of the book struck me as a bit eerie. One example is the section from her past where she is describing the Polyphemus moth her 4th or 5th grade class had acquired. ¿He heaved himself down the asphalt driveway by infinite degrees, unwavering. His hideous crumpled wings lay glued and rucked on his back, perfectly still now, like a collapsed tent.¿ These two sentences completely enraptured me. The visualization was so clear and alarming that I was a bit subdued after reading this passage. I think I will read this book again when I am older. I feel that I will appreciate it more, and I will understand things better. For now, I think I will definitely recommend this book! You have to completely lose yourself in it to fully acknowledge the fine writing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
From the first page, where she describes the tomcat who left roses on her body to the end where she tells the horrifying story of the Eskimo, Annie Dillard kept me glued to the pages. I never knew that philosophy and theology were so interconnected, nor that nature could inspire such thinking. Dillard takes us away from the cliched to a world we never even dreamed existed. It has changed my life
Guest More than 1 year ago
This text is one of my favorites--worth reading time and again. While many of the books I read have an impact on my beliefs and lifestyle, Annie Dillard's books have made an especially lasting mark on me, influencing not only my writing style and definition of beauty but also my sense of environmental ethics. Her writing is fabulous--each line is poetic and meaningful. The focus of Tinker Creek drifts from nature and the commonplace to profound spiritual concepts. The wealth of information she draws from even the most basic elements of life reflects her attitudes about the beauty of the simple. For those that have always loved nature, to internalize Dillard's work is to gain an appreciation for unique stones and tiny flowers on the south sides of hills, not just grandiose landscapes and majestic wildlife. All nature is awe-inspiring, regardless of scale.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you've ever enjoyed being outside, this book will take you out there and bring you such joy! Annie Dillard is always a joy to read. Her language bejewels her observations in such a way that one is refreshed, relaxed, at peace. She is a fund of nature experiences and facts and ever interesting. A paragraph is sometimes enough. Perfect falling asleep thoughts.
Holly_Furia More than 1 year ago
Book Review: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek This book, told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator who lives next to Tinker Creek, is written in a series of monologues and reflections. Over the course of a year, the narrator observes the changing of the seasons as well as the vegetation and various animals near her home. This book is divided into four sections, one for each season. The first chapter, "Heaven and Earth in Jest", is an introduction to the book. The narrator describes the location as well as her connection to it. “I live by a creek, Tinker Creek, in a valley in Virginia's Blue Ridge. An anchorite's hermitage is called an anchor-hold; some anchor-holds were simple sheds clamped to the side of a church like a barnacle or a rock. I think of this house clamped to the side of Tinker Creek as an anchor-hold. It holds me at anchor to the rock bottom of the creek itself and keeps me steadied in the current, as a sea anchor does, facing the stream of light pouring down. It's a good place to live; there's a lot to think about.” Touching upon themes of faith, nature, and awareness the book records the narrator’s thoughts on solitude, writing, and religion. I enjoyed the detailed descriptions of the wilderness and the animals. I ended up learning some things about both, that I did not know before. Because the narrator is unknown, it gave the book a mysterious essence. At times, the book was somewhat boring because there wasn’t a lot going on. She mainly sat back and watched. Someone should read this book because it is very interesting and you learn things at the same time. After reading this book, I’ve learned that if you take a second to really look, you might notice something that you never knew was there. I recommend reading other books by Annie Dillard like “Tickets for a Prayer Wheel”, “Living by Fiction”, and “Teaching a Stone To Talk”.
lavenderlady2 More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book about 30 years ago and am re reading it. I purchased two copies for a friend and my sister. Hope they love it as much as I do. Annie is not only a nature lover but everything she write is so poetic and spiritual in nature.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This a really beautiful book with strong and beautiful descriptions and metaphors. She doesn't hide any hideousness she finds or let anything magnificant in truth get by. It is as though she is writing straight from what she is feeling at that very moment,no plot is needed. These aren't a pile of memoirs, they are all woven together with central themes about seeing and realizations.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I would like to know this person. She is equally at home with minute observation as well as grand metaphysics. I reread this book every year or so.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After being perfectly enthralled by the chapter entitled, 'Seeing,' which I read in a compilation of essays for a memoir writing class I took, and after hearing many people rave about it, I finally decided that I needed to read the whole book. I couldn't have been more captivated; the author's honesty and fascination instantly grab the reader's attention, and with incredibly fine attention to detail she describes the wonderful world around her...and makes you put down the book viewing your own world with just a little more awe. I actually had to pace myself while reading this book, just to prolong the magic. Recommended to all devoted memoir- and journal-writers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I attempted to read this book in 1974, I believe. It was my summer of expanding my mind. I was a college student then and went on to receive advanced degrees in English and history. I was rather amazed to learn that this has become required reading for some students so I recently tried it again, believing that older and wiser would make a difference. I was wrong. I tried to make it to the bitter end and failed again. It may be for a special type of soul but I don't believe it's for the majority of us. I will say she's big on allegory, metaphor, classic quotes, et cetera. Sadly, though, many have been overused and beaten to death. Perhaps anyone contemplating a purchase should first read an excerpt or two. It's just not what I would call exceptional or classic.
librarianbryan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Solipsistic indulgence for those with the luxury of luxury but not the luxury solipsism. Kind of disappointing as this was on my to read list for years. Is it misogynistic to say it doesn't help that Tavia Gilbert sounds like a mom? Is it immature? Someone call me on my guilt for not caring about this person's summer vacation!
frisbeesage on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Listening to the audio version of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is like having a lovely conversation with Annie Dillard. She meanders through whatever subject crosses her mnds, exclaiming over muskrats, frogs, and praying mantis. She wonders about the meaning of the things she encounters on her walks along Tinker Creek and then she forgets about meaning and just admires the beauty of it all. Her prose is gorgeous, more poetry then mere nonfiction writing. She's young, and it shows in her exuberant sometimes overly gushing enthusiasm. Her musings can be random and seem disconnected, but are more often charming and conversational. I enjoyed this chance to get to know Annie Dillard and the landscape she loved. I listened to this book on audio read by Tavia Gilbert. She does a fantastic job of capturing the energy, enthusiasm, and wonder of Annie's observations.
missmel58 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I came to The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek having just completed Ann Lamott¿s Traveling Mercies. Both texts embody spiritual journeys. Both texts approach the world in general, from my perspective. It was not the appropriate order in which to read these books. I have read other Dillard texts ¿ and have heard her speak ¿ I¿ve always been a fan. I found myself distracted, restless and impatient in the beginning pages of the book. Nothing moved. Oh sure, Tinker Creek moved, but the action of a creek is somewhat sedate.In general, I pace my reading gauging the time it will take to read any given text based on the number of pages therein, and knowing the speed at which I read. I estimated The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek to be a three to four day read. But creeks and muskrats move slower than that, not to mention crickets and spiders. Dillard¿s purpose seemed to be to slow down the reader ¿ to engage on a more subtle level. Her pilgrimage slowed me down, forced me to take deep breaths and walk in the meadow west of my house.But I found myself wondering, about a third of the way in, on the day my phone bill was due, how is she paying for this luxurious life? How can she wander the shores of Tinker Creek for hours on end, undisturbed by the outside world and its cares? How is she eating? This was a gap in the text that I simply could not get beyond. I loved her language and her ability to show me her surrounding and emotional and intellectual reaction to those surroundings, but the text as a whole remained very surreal and abstract for me. Unlike Lamott¿s text which at times was entirely too real.In both texts there was a search for God. Both texts had strong feminine voices and perspectives. And yet, they are polar opposites. For Lamott God is to be found in the busyness of life while for Dillard God lives in the quiet places. Dillard¿s biblical references always caught me off-guard. Hers seems to be a more native, pagan approach to life and yet her very Christian presentation does not feel or seem out of place in the pages of her book. The juxtaposition of the texts has given me a perspective in my own writing ¿ do I fall into one camp or the other? In my heart, I think I must learn to fall between the two.
Mazidi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Overwritten, but beautifully so. And justifyably so: The dramatic extravagance of her prose reflects the inexhaustible spectacle of nature itself. She was 27 in 1972 when she wrote these reflections on nature, science, theology, and whatever tidbits of information were caputured, pinned to a table, and analyzed by the quixotic butterfly net of her mind. This is not a romantic ode to the beauty of nature. Yes, she sees the beauty but she sees the horror also: the transience of life, the meaninglessness of death, the frank speculation about what kind of a God set this all in motion.The framework of the book is a series of chapters corresponding to the seasons of one year as she explores the woods near her home in Virginia. Interspersed with her own observations are tidbits of science, followed by metaphysical interpretations. She sees, she wonders, she writes. Her responses to nature are visceral:"A cast-iron bell hung from the arch of my rib cage; when I stirred it rang, or it tolled, a long syllable pulsing ripples up my lungs and down the gritty sap inside my bones, and I couldn't make it out; I felt the voiced vowel like a sigh or a note but I couldn't catch the consonant that shaped it into sense."This would be a great book to take on a camping trip or retreat. It is a book that I will revisit throughout my life like an old friend.
ccayne on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Indescribable - very trippy meditation on being still, seeing, art, time. Beautifully written and leaves you with much to think about.
hmskip on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm not sure how anyone wrote such a book unless it was by hanging a tape recorder around the neck. A torrent of thoughts and useless information - some interesting.
poetontheone on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The first thing that grabbed my attention as I began reading this book is the loveliness of its prose. The sentences are long and vivid and full of color. After forty or so pages, the line between colorful and purple begins to blur. Throughout the books, there are lines, or even a whole page, that shines. The sentiment and the language converge and deliver some powerful declaration, or pose excellent some cosmic query. However, the book slogs after awhile. I think you must go into Tinker Creek expecting highly self-referential field notes on wildlife, complimented by quotations and views Dillard uncovers in whatever she is reading at the time of such observations, and peppered with Biblical allusions. Dillard isn't necessarily preachy here, the allusions fit nicely enough within the wonder of her setting, but they sometimes feel a bit forced rather natural, as though she had to meet some quota on biblical references. At her best, Dillard shows us the majesty of nature through her eyes, all at once violent and beautiful. Despite this, I was frequently bored with her descriptions. It all began to seem too familiar. A uniquely presented work, but I suppose I'd be more apt to return to Barry Lopez if I wanted to run about the wild and winged things of the Earth.
JimmyChanga on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I usually don't finish books that I dislike, that's why I have so few 2 star reviews here on this site. However, this one seemed harmless enough, and there were aspects of the book I liked (at least when I started). For example, there are a lot of stories and anecdotes about nature that were really interesting: "On cool autumn nights, eels hurrying to the sea sometimes crawl for a mile or more across dewy meadows to reach streams that will carry them to salt water." These are adult eels, silver eels, and this descent that slid down my mind is the fall from a long spring ascent the eels made years ago. [...] In the late summer of the year they reached maturity, they stopped eating and their dark color vanished. They turned silver; now they are heading to the sea [...where] they will mate, release their eggs, and die. [...] Imagine a chilly night and a meadow; balls of dew droop from the curved blades of grass. [...] Here come the eels. The largest are five feet long. All are silver. They stream into the meandow, sift between grasses and clover, veer from your path. There are too many to count. All you see is a silver slither, like twisted ropes of water falling roughly, a one-way milling and mingling over the meadow and slide to the creek."This is interesting. It's this kind of stuff that kept me reading. There's still a little bit of over-writing in there that I despise, but whatever. Now listen to this next part:"If I saw that sight, would I live? If I stumbled across it, would I ever set foot from my door again? Or would I be seized to join that compelling rush, would I cease eating, and pale, and abandon all to start walking?"Blegh! The melodrama! The romanticization! The overly dramatic prose... and why does she always think everything has to do with HER? Almost every time she mentions some natural phenomena, she inevitably ends the thought with some kind of personal revelation or reaction. It seems excessive and selfish and human-centric. It seems exactly what I don't want to read in a book about nature. She just inserts herself everywhere, as if her thoughts are more important than what is actually going on.As for the language, which people seem to praise, I found it bloated, overwritten and unnecessarily concerned with description. Not just description, but description bordering on embellishment. I felt her human hands in everything, making the beauty that she often describes into heavy prose full of awkward strain and effort.
Sandydog1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It won the Pulitzer. It is revered by nature writers. It is lyrical. It is boring.
WaxPoetic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It is more than an exercise in note-taking and observation to record evidence of such present moments as happen when eyes are open and time is abundant. Annie Dillard tells the story of built moments, crafted from the accidents of pond life and sunshine and floods. She would be a hoarder of facts but for her willingness to share them in aid of curiosity and storytelling. And it is her storytelling that weaves as novelists do and allows her readers almost to forget that what she tells you is not simply fact, it is truth.I have relished this book as one would a box of fine chocolates or bottle of delicious tequila and was equally distressed for it to end. It is not for everyone, but for those who can fall into the world as seen through the eyes of Ms. Dillard, it is a delight and a wonder.
KendraRenee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Way too much fluff, and too little substance. I would read several pages at a time before I realized I hadn't learned anything worthwhile, if not anything at all. Would not recommend.