I received a belated and Most Welcome birthday gift the other day: Annie Dillard’s novel, The Maytrees.
I am thrilled to get my hands on anything by Annie Dillard. Anything. Already I own copies of The Writing Life and An American Childhood, and I own them again in my Three By Annie Dillard, which includes both of those and her Pulitzer-Prize-winning Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.
I love her writing Very Much.
But this novel feels like an especial thrill, because Annie Dillard doesn’t write novels. She doesn’t. Well, she did once (evidently) a long time ago, and since then hasn’t, and doesn’t need to. She has, in fact, kindofsortof scoffed at the very idea of writing a novel (I think it’s in her The Writing Life), and instead produces non-fiction prose that is exhilarating and terrifying and really somewhat transporting, and I find that I can easily read it from cover to cover, unlike most of the other non-fiction that comes my way. Yes, fiction (Excellent Fiction) is the general rule of thumb for me, but Annie Dillard would be the rule of the Other Thumb (we’ve got two), if you see what I mean.
And anyway, if you can write like Annie does, then you should only write however you want to, and not feel compelled to do anything but that, and we should all be grateful that you are writing at all.
The latest from Ms. Dillard is a novel.
It was published in 2007. It’s called The Maytrees. I have it in paperback Right Here.
Of course, I have already begun to read it.
Perhaps I’ll write a review for you, O Reader, at some point on these pages. With the return to school tomorrow, I’m guessing that my Personal Reading Time will once again diminish. But Christmas (and it’s luxurious break- oh Praise!) is approaching, and You Can Be Sure that I will be reading this book.
Meanwhile (did you know it was coming?) I have a little something for you. Just a very little. But it is oh, so Annie, and I will give it to you here (did you doubt it for even a minute?):
Falling in love, like having a baby, rubs against the main current of our lives: separation, loss and death. That is the joy of them.
— from Annie Dillard’s The Maytrees. Page 22.
Did I mention that she’s written a novel?