Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Review: Teaching A Stone To Talk by Annie Dillard

I first discovered Annie Dillard while taking a graduate seminar on Ecocriticism at West Virginia University. Dillard was not part of the assigned reading, but rather an author who my professor and multiple classmates thought I would enjoy as I contemplated writings that considered both the Christian faith tradition and how various American writers of faith had observed nature as a teacher with regard to spiritual truths during this country’s short history.  For the class, I had read her Pulitzer Prize winning book PilgrimAt Tinker Creek, and that book gave me a desire to read more of her works. To be clear, I don't believe that Dillard would call herself a "Christian author" in the sense of one who writes specifically for faith audiences, but I found myself deeply appreciative of her authenticity in writing about her faith and life.

It has been some time since I first read the book, but I remember with some degree of clarity sitting in a Chipotle in or near Worthington, OH as I made my way through some portion of the book while drinking some kind of bottled juice and enjoying a large burrito filled with rice, beans, chicken and lots of flavor.

Teaching A Stone To Talk, originally written in 1982, is a wonderful series of essays about faith, life, and a variety of observations about both that are rooted and grounded in the reality of the author’s experiences of living a life of faith in 20th century America. To be clear, it isn’t so much a book about faith or about daily life as it is a book about obserations taken in during the rhythms of weeks, months, and years. The essays are grounded and rooted in place and in what feels like actual experiences.

As I read her essays, there were times that I laughed, sympathized, and wept as I considered some of the experiences very akin to some I had also been through. The world needs writers like Dillard that encourage us to think deeply about the every day in light of eternity, and to not take ourselves too seriously. Looking for a good book of essays that has stood the test of time? Grab this book and giving at read, and looking through Dillard’s lens of daily life’s expeditions and encounters.

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