Monday, January 26, 2004

Annie Dillard, For the Time Being. 1999.

I'm a big fan of Dillard's writing. She has the most amazing ability to contemplate a moment, an image, a fact, and to then use it to talk about what it means to live. She can stretch metaphors--without making the reader incredulous--to talk about just what it is that she's thinking about. For the Time Being is no exception. Indeed, even if you've never read anything else by Dillard, I think you should read this book.

This book is mostly about life. Dillard weaves together stories about births--both healthy and those of children with some horrifying congenital problems--and deaths, and life. She ponders the Earth, and Teilhard de Chardin's study of it, along with her own. In the weft there is Kabbalah, and in the warp, stories of the Sufi mystics. All along, Dillard uses numbers--"It took only a few typhoon waves to drown 138,000 Bangledeshi on April 30, 1991." (109)--to talk about people, but succeeds in her aim: to reject the general case. To celebrate the incredible special-ness that is a life. To celebrate the joy that is life.

Along the way, she thinks about theodicy, and offers her own way of making sense of the tragedies of life. I'll not ruin her thoughts by attempting to condense them; instead, I encourage you to read her book.

She's worth your time.