Annie Dillard and The Writing Life

I’m glad a writer like Annie Dillard exists. She writes fantastic sentences and I’m certain that she speaks right to the heart of some people. She is not, however, my jam.

I just finished The Writing Life, another in a string of craft books I’ve devoted my summer to reading. It had some good moments–mostly one liners–but on the whole it was maddeningly manic. She hops around from story to story a lot, talks a lot about herself and the cool places she’s been, drops an occasional great quote from someone else, and then wanders off into seemingly meaningless tangents.

Come to think of it, that sounds an awful lot like this blog.

So on to another occasional great quote:

“A well-known writer got collared by a university student who asked, “Do you think I could be a writer?”

“Well,” the writer said, “I don’t know … Do you like sentences?”

The writer could see the student’s amazement. Sentences? Do I like sentences? I am twenty years old and do I like sentences? If he had liked sentences, of course, he could begin, like a joyful painter I knew. I asked him how he came to be a painter. He said, “I liked the smell of the paint.”


“The people who read are the people who like literature, after all, whatever that might be. They like, or require, what books alone have. If they want to see films that evening, they will find films. If they do not like to read, they will not. People who read are not too lazy to flip on the television; they prefer books. I cannot imagine a sorrier pursuit than struggling for years to write a book that attempts to appeal to people who do not read in the first place.”

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