Tuesday, June 05, 2007

An American Childhood

Just looking over at my bookshelves, I spy Pilgrim At Tinker Creek, a book by Annie Dillard. I’ve been meaning to read that book for about 65 years now, and have not done so.
I love how it starts out…
I used to have a cat, an old fighting tom, who would jump through the open window by my bed in the middle of the night and land on my chest.

I like that. I love her fascination with life.
Makes me recall her excellent memoir, An American Childhood, which is where I first met the furiously curious Annie Dillard.

From her very earliest years she has a profound awareness of the mystery of life, nothing is without wonder, everything worthy of further scientific investigation. She has what Abraham Maslow called a "freshness of appreciation" meaning not only that nothing escapes her notice, but also that she tends to find some positive result out of all of her experiences, and I find this to be an enviable trait.

The book, her childhood, takes place in Pittsburgh in the 1950's.
She is afforded much freedom and affluence in her somewhat eccentric and hilarious family [her mother didn't like the taste of stamps, so she didn't lick stamps; she licked the corner of the envelope instead]. Dillard wonderfully paints a picture of a world that is charged with wonder, and gives us a sense that this electrified world is not just hers, but also the world of the reader.
It's true that one has to be patient with Dillard's disconnected vignettes... there are diversions that seem to bust up the chronology of events, but overall, the book is great in that it makes the reader feel that perhaps they too have never lived an insignificant day.

She says: "...it is not you or I that is important, neither what sort we might be nor how we came to be each where we are. What is important is anyone's coming awake and discovering a place, finding in full orbit a spinning globe one can lean over, catch, and jump on. What is important is the moment of opening a life and feeling it touch - with an electric hiss and cry - this speckled mineral sphere, our present world."

She seems to be saying that there is a glory in the mundane.
And I agree with her.
I think there is.



Merisi said...

Couldn't agree more with you both. :-) The more so after yesterday's visit do Demel's. Live is a bowl of cherry made into Cherry Strudel! And sitting under sun umbrellas in a thunderstorm, not bad either. :-)

Anonymous said...

Here is one of my favorite passages from An American Childhood:
"I had been driven into nonfiction against my wishes. I wanted to read fiction, but I had learned to be cautious about it.
'When you open a book,' the sentimental library posters said, 'anything can happen.' This was so. A book of fiction was a bomb. It was a land mine you wanted to go off. You wanted it to blow your whole day.
Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of books were duds. They had been rusting out of everyone's way for so long that they no longer worked. There was no way to distinguish the duds from the live mines except to throw yourself at them headlong, one by one."

cipriano said...

You are leading a decadent, decadent, decadent [which is to say ADMIRABLE... DESIRABLE] life, Merisi.
Which is to say, "Take me there!" that I may clog my last artery!

Great passage, anonymous.
Thank you for reminding me of it.