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An American Childhood
by Annie Dillard

To:                ALL                   Date:    03/15
From:   WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Time:     2:32 PM

AN AMERICAN CHILDHOOD by Annie Dillard                      
     I think it's remarkably coincidental that we've read   
two books in a row that revealed the inner lives of         
children. I swear I didn't set it up that way. And the most 
important discovery both these children made was "I am      
alive!" In Bradbury's Dandelion Wine, Douglas made the      
parallel discovery that he would one day die. Do you all    
think that the hormonal rage in the 16-year old Annie was at
all related to this same discovery?                         
     When I was a girl growing up in NC, I often longed to  
be one of the town kids, instead of one of the farm kids.   
Dillard's book gave me some insight into what a town kid's  
life was like. Not simply a town kid, as it turns out, but a
real society kid (I don't think they even had that sort     
where I lived).                                             
     I loved her parents. Can't you just imagine being in a 
family where jokes and jazz are so important?  They were    
hypocritical to some extent, though.  Why do you think it   
was important to them that their children carry on the      
tradition of "being in the right place" when they themselves
had totally abnegated that privilege/responsibility? Do you 
think the "benign neglect" notion of child-rearing was a    
detrimental or a positive thing? I remember my husband      
wishing that his father had gone to his baseball games.     
Years later my father-in-law said he didn't go to them on   
purpose, because he didn't want to intrude on Tom's "thing."
Every generation has its own philosophies, I guess.  Do you 
think her parents were just self-absorbed or really thought 
she would do better without too much interference?          

===============   Reply    1 of Note   20 =================

To:     WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Date:    03/15
From:   DNBR75A    S THOMSEN             Time:     2:50 PM

Sherry, I thought AN AMERICAN CHILDHOOD was a wonderful     
memoir. I hadn't been that crazy about some other Dillard   
books that I'd read before, but now maybe I'll go back and  
re-read some of her work. I have an new appreciation for it.
  In Dillard's case, the "benign neglect" seemed to have    
worked out fine; for other kids, this might not have been   
the case. Dillard was extraordinarly self-motivated, as when
she spends whole mornings in the attic sketching and        
re-sketching the baseball glove. The grandmother, too,      
picked up some of the parental slack; after all, two of the 
sisters spent almost their entire summers with her.         
   Every once and a while, the privelged life got to me,
though. I'll have to think more about this point.           
  Was it Annie Dillard who lived in Oregon and got into     
trouble with the comments that she made about women in the  
Northwest? I seem to remember a discussion of this on CR,   
but can't recall if it's the same author.                   
  Barb, thanks for recommending this one!                   

===============   Reply    2 of Note   20 =================

To:     DNBR75A    S THOMSEN             Date:    03/15
From:   FNMN56E    LYNN EVANS            Time:     8:34 PM

Susan, Now and then the privileged life got to me too. I    
once even thought the book really ought to be called "A     
Privileged American Childhood." I remember reading all the  
build-up hype about daddy going on his sail down the        
Mississippi and how would mother ever manage... and then    
discovering some brief reference to mom's full-time help!   
Nurse AND cook! I mean, puh-leaze.                          
  Also, I'm not convinced about the benign neglect. It seems
so, from her telling, but such a sturdy, self-reliant soul  
(and wasn't her brother the same?), in my opinion, was      
nourished in ways she may simply be unaware of, so          
accustomed was she to being loved and supported. Lynn       

===============   Reply    3 of Note   20 =================

To:     DNBR75A    S THOMSEN             Date:    03/15
From:   FNMN56E    LYNN EVANS            Time:     8:39 PM

Susan, Oops! Wanted to mention though that I really just    
loved this book. Privileged or not, every child should have 
such a childhood.                                           

===============   Reply    4 of Note   20 =================

To:     FNMN56E    LYNN EVANS            Date:    03/15
From:   KXBZ24A    ANNE WILFONG          Time:     9:23 PM

I read this book years ago and need to brush up, but the    
"benign neglect" concept was one of my mom's standards. We  
had room to grow, experiment, and develop without telling   
her where we were every minute. It was wonderful as a kid to
have that sense of freedom and responsibility, to think and 
make our own choices. Nonetheless, it must've been tough for
Mom to sit back & let us do it.                             
Anne, who had a relaxed, free childhood, and a unique set of
parents, for our neighborhood anyway                        

===============   Reply    5 of Note   20 =================

To:     FNMN56E    LYNN EVANS            Date:    03/16
From:   DNBR75A    S THOMSEN             Time:    10:11 AM

Lynn and all, I loved this book, too. So much of it reminded
me of my own childhood; I spent a lot of time roaming my    
neighborhood, too, & remember when empty lots seemed like   
forests. Childhood is not all joy, of course, but I just    
loved the way Dillard captured that aspect of it. She used a
lot of details and specificity in her story so that she was 
able to make her points without hammering them: the         
chauffeur's water glass, the ponds & streams book at the    
Homewood Library, the long staircase that separated her     
newest neighborhood from the oldest. Wonderfully done.      

===============   Reply    6 of Note   20 =================

To:     DNBR75A    S THOMSEN             Date:    03/16
From:   FNMN56E    LYNN EVANS            Time:    10:49 AM

Susan, I remember that too! (when empty lots seemed like    
forests...) Everything was such an adventure: the "pretty   
rock pile" we used to hike to wasn't just a heap of gravel  
dumped there by 2-1/2 ton trucks; they were a "secret find."
The sandbags turned to stone on the beach were mysterious;  
the abandoned tunnels were a dangerous, haunted hideaway;   
etc. etc.                                                   
  And the days went on forever! Lunch seemed like a         
necessary break, something we needed to rest up from our    
morning labors before launching ourselves into the endless  
afternoon. Dinner was a lifetime away. Sigh! Lynn           

===============   Reply    7 of Note   20 =================

To:     FNMN56E    LYNN EVANS            Date:    03/16
From:   FDLX59B    MARY ANNE PAPALE      Time:    11:59 AM

I read AN AMERICAN CHILDHOOD a few years ago. While I didn't
grow up in Pittsburgh, my husband did, only a stone's throw 
from Dillard's original neighborhood. So I was prepared to  
be put off by the privelege, but that never really happened 
to me. I think the fact that Dillard realizes that she had  
an atypical upbringing even for the priveleged helps in that
Because of the setting, AAC is read by virtually every      
Pittsburgh reading group. But I have to admit that I got    
bored with this book about 3/4 of the way through, and went 
on to more exciting reads. I did like THE LIVING a lot more 
because I found it more compelling.  MAP                    

===============   Reply    8 of Note   20 =================

To:     KXBZ24A    ANNE WILFONG          Date:    03/16
From:   FNMN56E    LYNN EVANS            Time:    12:13 PM

Anne, I like your mom's approach to child-rearing. But maybe
it wasn't really so tough for her? I mean, if she really    
understood the importance of letting kids make their own    
decisions, maybe it came naturally to her? Do you remember  
her seeming conflicted about not getting/being more         
involved? Maybe just at particular junctures?               
  Questions questions, eh? Sometimes it all seems like such 
a crapshoot. Lynn                                        

===============   Reply    9 of Note   20 =================

To:     FDLX59B    MARY ANNE PAPALE      Date:    03/16
From:   DNBR75A    S THOMSEN             Time:     5:53 PM

Mary Anne, what is THE LIVING about?                        
  Interesting to hear your comments about AAC and Pittsburgh
reading groups! I've been debating whether to give this to a
friend who grew up in the city. She might have already read 
  Are you in Michigan now?                                  

===============   Reply   10 of Note   20 =================

To:     DNBR75A    S THOMSEN             Date:    03/16
From:   TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Time:     6:35 PM

Annie Dillard seems to have adored both of her parents, so I
don't think she had any resentments about the "benign       
neglect." They might not have been involved in their        
children's activities per se, but they seemed to really talk
to them a lot,  explaining what they thought was important  
and why, they danced together (gee --I totally can't imagine
that with my parents!), and they laughed a lot together.    
It all sounded pretty idealic to me, and it was fun reliving
her childhood with her.                                     
One of my Dad's favorite expressions was "Children should be
seen and not heard." I don't think you'd find many parents  
saying that today, but in the fifties children were left on 
their own a lot more. The world was a safer place (except   
for the bomb, of course ), and there were always a lot of
mothers at home. It was a good time to grow up.             
There were lots of things I could relate to in this book,   
but I think Annie Dillard's self-awareness was really       
exceptional. At times it seemed to get in the way of just   
living and enjoying things.                                 

===============   Reply   11 of Note   20 =================

To:     TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Date:    03/17
From:   NDKB53A    THERESA SIMPSON       Time:     2:06 AM

I would bet that self awareness which gets in the way of    
just living and enjoying things is a trait of many writers. 
This book was a very quick read.  I agree with Lynn that a  
better title might have been An Extremely Privileged        
American Childhood.  Privileged not only in social/economic 
status, but also in a good way, hopefully obtainable by     
almost everyone, in that she had freedom to pursue whatever 
interested her.  I thought her parents were far more        
involved in Annie's life than she admitted to - she tells us
that her mother drove her to the library every week; that   
when she really wanted a microscope, they bought her one;   
(plus gave her the space and the time to use it).  I didn't 
think her parents rejected their social background at all - 
they just played around with it, because they knew they     
could get away with it (just like Annie played around at    
being a wild teen-ager - drag racing, by golly - but never  
seemed to doubt that this would interfere in any way with   
her ability to go to college).                              
How did the rest of you think this early example compares to
the current batch of memoirs?                               

===============   Reply   12 of Note   20 =================

To:     DNBR75A    S THOMSEN             Date:    03/17
From:   FDLX59B    MARY ANNE PAPALE      Time:    10:06 AM

Susan, Yes, I am alive and well in MI and getting back into 
my reading groove.                                          
THE LIVING is about pioneers going to the great Northwest,  
told from the woman's point of view. It was one of those    
books that had me captivated from the start.  MAP           

===============   Reply   13 of Note   20 =================

To:     NDKB53A    THERESA SIMPSON       Date:    03/17
From:   FDLX59B    MARY ANNE PAPALE      Time:    10:16 AM

The current batch of memoirs seem pretty formulaic to me.   
Female authors were sexually abused, males physically       
abused, and most were pretty poor. Katharine Graham's       
autobiography also tells a story of privelege, but it is    
also a history of the POST. I am finding it refreshing to   
read about a childhood that wasn't sordid.  MAP             

===============   Reply   14 of Note   20 =================

To:     FNMN56E    LYNN EVANS            Date:    03/17
From:   KXBZ24A    ANNE WILFONG          Time:    10:26 AM

Lynn, you have a point about the "benign neglect" coming    
easy to my mom. She never seemed in conflict over this, and 
was never too nosey about friends or too involved in our    
little tiffs with neighbors (as long as no one got hurt...) 
I think this made us more comfortable approaching her with  
problems & ideas--she was so nonjudgemental--and in my teen 
years, my friends gravitated toward her more than they did  
to me, it seems. What a compliment to her.                  
Anne, with rich memories of childhood & Mom                 

===============   Reply   15 of Note   20 =================

To:     NDKB53A    THERESA SIMPSON       Date:    03/17
From:   DNBR75A    S THOMSEN             Time:    10:36 AM

Theresa, that's a good question about this book compared to 
the recent crop of memoirs. I was thinking about that when I
read AN AMERICAN CHILDHOOD, and, along the lines of what    
Mary Anne was saying, I was relieved to read a book with so 
much joy in it. Dillard's book seems to be a more           
intellectual self-history than some other memoirs; it's so  
concerned with the life of the mind. Many of the recent ones
are about surviving almost war-like conditions within the   
family; the point they make is "This is how I lived         
(overcame these terrible conditons)" while Dillard's is     
"This is how I thrived." Dillard was given the opportunity  
to have a childhood, while quite of the few of the recent
memoirists had to become adults at very young ages, often   
taking care of parents and younger siblings. I think it's   
important to hear all these stories, but as a reader, I have
to admit that I enjoy the ones like AN AMERICAN CHILDHOOD   
more than some of the others.                               
Susan, also a former rock collector                    

===============   Reply   16 of Note   20 =================

To:     DNBR75A    S THOMSEN             Date:    03/17
From:   BUYS59A    BARBARA HILL          Time:     1:38 PM

Another thing that made Dillard's memoir more interesting to
me besides being a happier one than I've read in the last   
year was that she told about her city too, gave us a brief  
history of it, and it's geography,and even mentioned some of
the people who contributed to the city.
Reading AAC and DW has been a great nostalgia trip! I, too, 
relived parts of my childhood while reading Dillard's.  One 
of the side effects of this book was that I starting writing
a list of questions to ask my mother, about some of my      
incomplete memories. Things I never thought to ask as a kid.
Barb Hill                                                   

===============   Reply   17 of Note   20 =================

To:     NDKB53A    THERESA SIMPSON       Date:    03/17
From:   TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Time:     9:43 PM

Well, I very recently finished ANGELA'S ASHES, a memoir by  
Frank McCourt. This has been discussed here before and some 
people found it very depressing, but I just had tremendous  
respect for the reslience of the author, and his story held 
me spellbound. On the other hand, I tried to read  LIARS    
CLUB and couldn't get through it -- too upsetting.          
As others have mentioned, one of the nicest things about    
AN AMERICAN CHILDHOOD is that it is a happy story. In fact, 
through most of the book, I kept asking myself, dosen't     
anything bad ever happen to this child? Apparently not,     
or maybe she just preferred not to tell us about it, right  
up until her teenage years when she experienced some fairly 
mild rebellion. Basically, she was a very lucky child and   
had the grace to recognize it. I liked the book a lot,      
although by the end the self-analysis was starting to wear a
little bit thin.                                            

===============   Reply   18 of Note   20 =================

To:     FDLX59B    MARY ANNE PAPALE      Date:    03/17
From:   TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Time:     9:43 PM

Mary Anne,                                                  
Is THE LIVING non-fiction?                                  

===============   Reply   19 of Note   20 =================

To:     TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Date:    03/18
From:   NDKB53A    THERESA SIMPSON       Time:     0:24 AM

I think that those who enjoyed An American Childhood would  
also like M.F.K. Fisher's childhood memoir - As We Were.    
Another introspective, self-aware child with loving,        
well-off parents.  Eudora Welty's childhood memoir would be 
another good choice - another basically happy book-worm.  I 
actually prefer both the Fisher and the Welty to the        
Dillard.  Now, can anyone think of something similar by a   
male writer?  I was disappointed with J.M. Coetzee's memoir 
("Boyhood") - plus, he had his share of grief - a dissolute 
dad, etc.  Russel Baker wrote a good memoir - he had a tough
childhood, though.  But he was pretty sanguine about the    
whole thing.        Theresa                                 

===============   Reply   20 of Note   20 =================

To:     NDKB53A    THERESA SIMPSON       Date:    03/18
From:   WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Time:     8:25 AM

Just a little side note, here. Sometimes things seem        
absolutely too coincidental. Sunday I was talking on the    
phone to one of my dearest friends from New York. We keep in
touch, but not very frequently. She has a son who goes to   
Wesleyan and is an English major. I mentioned that I had    
just finished a book by an English professor there. She of  
course knew right away that it was Dillard. On spring break,
her son and two of Dillard's protoges (where's that accent  
button) went to Key West (I think, somewhere in Florida) and
stayed in Dillard's vacation home. No big news here, but I  
just think it's neat to insert a little bit of trivia. It   
seemed very generous of her.                                

===============   Reply   21 of Note   20 =================

To:     NDKB53A    THERESA SIMPSON       Date:    03/18
From:   TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Time:     6:49 PM

I liked Russell Baker's memoirs a lot. Thanks for the tip on
M.K. Fisher and Eudora Welty.                               

===============   Reply   22 of Note   20 =================

To:     WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Date:    03/18
From:   TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Time:     6:51 PM

Well, I did wonder about the rest of the story, as I was    
reading this book. So Dillard teaches at Wesleyn. Do you    
know if she has always been a professional writer and       

===============   Reply   23 of Note   20 =================

To:     TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Date:    03/18
From:   WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Time:     7:15 PM

I don't really know any more than what the book cover said  
on my copy of AAC, that she is a professor at Wesleyan.     
I liked the part in the book about Carnegie. Imagine trying 
to spend all his money so he wouldn't have to leave any     
behind to "burden" his heirs with. At least the were        

===============   Reply   24 of Note   20 =================

To:     TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Date:    03/18
From:   DNBR75A    S THOMSEN             Time:    10:20 PM

Ann, here's some info on Dillard, which I'm cribbing from   
The Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the U.S. Born    
1945.  PILGRIM AT TINKER CREEK (1974) established Dillard as
a major American naturalist. The book received the Pulitzer 
Prize & earned Dillard a contributing editorship at         
Harper's. PATC described as a "work of mystical naturalism, 
allusive and imagistic, exploring the tension between       
nature's fertility and violence, between inclusiveness and  
isolation."...With THE LIVING (1992) Dillard established    
herself as a "labor novelist in the regionalist, Stegnerian 
   The other night I re-read WRITING LIFE (1992), which    
Dillard wrote when she was living in Washington State. I    
liked it for the most part, but found it much more ethereal 
than AN AMERICAN CHILDHOOD.                                 
  Here's what the Oxford book says about AAC: "Annie Dillard
describes her extraordinarily ordinary childhood in the     
homogenous middle-class urban American of the 1950s. Social 
issues of the decade---racial tension, enforced conformity, 
and ambivalence toward corporate life---are masked behind   
tales of learning how to tell a joke or conducting smelly   
experiments with a chemistry set. The tensions between      
affluence and fear, and individualism and conformity that   
informed the period's social criticism                   
MYSTIQUE, and ONE-DIMENSIONAL MAN), appear in Dillard's     
child's-eye retrospective as part of the remarkable warp and
woof of life. This emphasis on pluralistic ways of knowing  
and a balance of tensions dominates Dillard's work."        
  Other works:TEACHING A STONE TO TALK (1982), LIVING BY    
FICTION (1982).                                             

===============   Reply   25 of Note   20 =================

To:     NDKB53A    THERESA SIMPSON       Date:    03/18
From:   DNBR75A    S THOMSEN             Time:    11:27 PM

Theresa, in regard to memoirs by a male writer, I really    
liked Willie Morris's NORTH TOWARD HOME, which was published
in 1967. Morris grew up in Yazoo City, Mississippi, in the  
forties and fifties, then went away to college at the Univ. 
of Texas. The memoir is mostly about growing up in Miss.    
Willie Morris later became the editor of Harper's Magazine, 
& he does write with feeling about the Mississippi "exiles"  
that could not bear to live in the state because of its     
intolerant racial climate. He moved back to Mississippi in  
the eighties and lives there now. I liked NORTH TOWARD HOME 
better than the more recent NEW YORK DAYS, about his days at
Harper's; NEW YORK DAYS became too                        
name-droppy for me.                                         
  I haven't read MFK Fisher's memoir; I should get it.      
Eudora Welty's is wonderful. I've read a couple of AIDS     
memoirs, for lack of a better term, that I thought were     
beautiful: Mark Doty's HEAVEN'S COAST and Paul Monette's    
LOVING ROG (I think that's the title). The latter was one of
the saddest, most loving books I've read; I liked it much   
more than Monette's book HALF A MAN, which won some literary
awards. I cried through a good portion of LOVING ROG &
wanted to write Monette afterward to tell him what a great  
book I thought it was. I should have done it; now Monette is
gone.      --Susan                                          

===============   Reply   26 of Note   20 =================

To:     WSRF10B    SHERRY KELLER         Date:    03/18
From:   FAVB99B    JANE NIEMEIER         Time:    11:52 PM

Sherry and all,                                             
I have been out of town since Saturday, and I finished AAC  
on my way home today.  You have all mentioned many of the   
things that I was thinking.  I liked the parallels between  
DANDELION WINE and this book.  I liked young Anne's         
curiosity about everything and her misery as a teenager.  I 
think that we can all relate to that.  Her view of teenage  
boys as something wonderful made me realize that I used to  
feel that way about boys at that age.  Since, I now teach   
teenage boys, I find them to be gawky, funny, charming, and 
out-of-control but not wonderful.  AAC reminded me how my   
viewpoint has changed.  Jane, back in snowy Colorado        

===============   Reply   27 of Note   20 =================

To:     TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Date:    03/19
From:   FDLX59B    MARY ANNE PAPALE      Time:    10:05 AM

Ann, No, THE LIVING is fiction. I wouldn't call it a        
historical novel exactly, but rather fiction set in a       
certain time period. And now that I've said that, I realize 
that I can't define the difference, if there is one. Maybe  
someone else who has read TL can help me out here.  MAP     

===============   Reply   28 of Note   20 =================

To:     DNBR75A    S THOMSEN             Date:    03/19
From:   FDLX59B    MARY ANNE PAPALE      Time:    10:26 AM

The Pittsburgh papers did a piece on Dillard a few years    
back when AAC was published. I remember reading that she has
a guest house or studio where she can escape and write while
the nanny takes care of the kids.                           
Dillard may describe her upbringing as homogenous middle    
class, but much of it was and is today decidedly upper      
class. For example, the Ellis School for Girls has a few    
more middle class students today than it did in the 50s and 
60s, but not many. I like Dillard's writing, but there's    
this aspect of her that seems to want to place herself in   
the Pittsburgh mainstream, when she couldn't have been. MAP 

===============   Reply   29 of Note   20 =================

To:     FDLX59B    MARY ANNE PAPALE      Date:    03/19
From:   TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Time:    12:42 PM

Susan and Mary Anne,                                        
Thanks for the information on Dillard. So, THE LIVING is a  
novel written in the Stegnerian style -- that sounds like   
something I should definitely try.                          
The Oxford reference to Dillard's "middle class" childhood  
gave me a jolt too, Mary Anne. Dillard herself seemed to    
realize how privileged it was. It is odd, isn't it, how     
almost everyone in this country likes to think of themselves
as middle class (at least publically)? In one of my son's   
high school classes, the teacher asked how many considered  
themselves middle class, and everyone raised their hands.   

===============   Reply   30 of Note   20 =================

To:     FDLX59B    MARY ANNE PAPALE      Date:    03/19
From:   DNBR75A    S THOMSEN             Time:     2:52 PM

Mary Anne, Ann, and everyone, that "middle class" reference 
surprised me, too. (The Dillard entry was written by someone
named Carol Schaechterle Loranger; I should have mentioned  
that in my note since I was quoting so extensively from what
she wrote.) "Upper middle class" seems more apt.            
  I liked the information about Pittsburgh that she included
in the book. I thought this opened up AAC, made it more     
aware of the bigger world.                                  

===============   Reply   31 of Note   20 =================

To:     DNBR75A    S THOMSEN             Date:    03/19
From:   DNBR75A    S THOMSEN             Time:     9:11 PM

Dept. of Corrections: the titles of those Paul Monette books
I mentioned earlier should have been BECOMING A MAN: HALF A 
LIFE STORY and BORROWED TIME, which was the one I liked.    

===============   Reply   32 of Note   20 =================

To:     TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Date:    03/19
From:   FAVB99B    JANE NIEMEIER         Time:    11:46 PM

When we were in San Diego earlier this week, we were        
browsing in a used book store, and I was mightily tempted to
buy THE LIVING just from the first page.  It is definitely  
my kind of book.  I decided to wait and buy it here at home 
because 1) we had only carry-on bags and 2) as usual, I have
too many books in my TBR pile. And this inclination to buy  
THE LIVING happened even before I read these notes!  Jane   
who spent an hour and a half shoveling snow today           

===============   Reply   33 of Note   20 =================

To:     FAVB99B    JANE NIEMEIER         Date:    03/20
From:   TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Time:     6:37 PM

If you get to THE LIVING before I do, please give us a      
San Diego is really beautiful, isn't it? Love the climate.  

===============   Reply   34 of Note   20 =================

To:     TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Date:    03/20
From:   FAVB99B    JANE NIEMEIER         Time:    10:36 PM

I am off the subject here, but it was very difficult to     
return to Denver because the sun was shining in San Diego,  
and the pilot informed us that there was a major snow storm 
going on in Denver.  He had the gall to say, "Why are all of
you leaving San Diego when I can see the sun shining here?" 
I felt like running up to the front of the plane to inform  
him that I wouldn't be leaving if I could change my airline 
tickets to the next day.  How cruel can you get?  We barely 
made it into our driveway and then had to shovel for an hour
and a half yesterday to make it out.  We had two feet of    
snow in the shallow places and four feet in the drifts.     
Ah, San Diego!!                                             
Jane in CO where the sun is shining again                   

===============   Reply   35 of Note   20 =================

To:     FAVB99B    JANE NIEMEIER         Date:    03/21
From:   NCSH82B    BARBARA MOORS         Time:     0:23 AM

Oh Jane, I relate totally.  San Diego is one of my favorite 
places.  Would love to live there.  I've been thinking      
about you when I heard about the snowstorm in Denver on the 
radio.  Hope you're cozy by a fire by now.  And, Anne, what 
about you?                                                  
  I'm about 30 pages from finishing AAC but couldn't resist 
the phenomenon of actually being able to participate in a   
discussion of a CR list book while it's going on.  I find   
myself very much under Dillard's spell, much as I was when  
I read PILGRIM AT TINKER CREEK.  Both books are part prose, 
part essay and that seems to be a style I enjoy.  In        
addition, I love her emphasis on honing in on the detail of 
life...followed by her wonder at how we can ever manage to  
absorb even a fraction of it.                               
  I definitely had the impression that she knew her family  
was upper class, not just upper middle class.  But, her     
description of their society and those above them strike me 
as that of a social anthropologist...sort of the Margaret   
Mead of Pittsburgh wealth.  And, when she presents them in  
that light, I find them curiously interesting too...a       
phenomenon of human culture.                                
   I also want to encourage those of you who like           
Dillard's fascination with nature to read PILGRIM AT TINKER 
CREEK.  It opened with this paragraph which had me          
helplessly hooked on the book from the outset:              
    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'd half-awaken.  He'd stick   
his skull under my nose and purr, stinking of urine and     
blood.  Some nights he kneaded my bare chest with his front 
paws, powerfully, arching his back, as if sharpening his    
claws, or pummeling a mother for milk.  And some mornings   
I'd wake in daylight to find my body covered with paw       
prints in blood; I looked as though I'd been painted with   
To those of you who've suffered through me reprinting this  
before during a discussion of PILGRIM and maybe again when  
we talked about our favorite opening paragraphs of books, I 
apologize.  But, when I think of Dillard, I think of that   
paragraph.  The book continues with that same fascination   
for the life that we all miss in our daily hustle-bustle    
that you see developing in her in AAC.                      
  And, if Dale were here to join in our discussion (please  
come home, CBJ), he would certainly comment on the          
Polyphemus moth which the teacher put in too small a jar.   
He recommended AAC to me after I read PILGRIM and included  
that story.  When I read it, I actually expected more anger 
in Dillard's reaction.  That was certainly there, but so    
was a wonder at the moth's perseverence and joy in being    
born.  But, the last sentence about still being able to     
"see its golden wing clumps heave", gives me a catch in the 
  I definitely would like Dillard at the dinner party,      
Theresa.                                          Barb      

===============   Reply   36 of Note   20 =================

To:     TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Date:    03/21
From:   NCSH82B    BARBARA MOORS         Time:    10:23 AM

Just finished AN AMERICAN CHILDHOOD this morning and I feel 
that same exuberance that I felt after reading PILGRIM.     
This woman just reaches in and touches me at the core.      
What a perfect description of adolescence...that wonder in  
yourself at the boiling pot of anger and irritability.      
I still remember wondering what on earth made me hate my    
father so much...and deciding that since I hated my         
step-mother so much, I had better try to soft-pedal the     
negative feelings about my father.  It was impossible to    
live with such intensely negative feelings about both of    
them.  It all made me love her head mistress and the        
teacher who let her paint in the back of the room.  In a    
today's schools, she would have been permanently on         
suspension.  In my new role as parent of adolescents, I     
kept thinking practical thoughts about how much easier it   
would be for her if she was getting more exercise.  It's 
amazing how much nicer my boys are when they come back from 
swim practice.                                              
     I also loved her references throughout the book of     
wanting to be "free of myself".  She talks about the glory  
of it when she was 10 and younger.  Then, when she is going 
through adolescence, that horrible self-consciousness seems 
to be one of the things that most imprisons her.  It occurs 
to me that one of the most wonderful things about aging     
after adolescence is that release from self, not worrying   
nearly as much about every little skin change, etc. (I      
envision a total mental breakdown if you did).              
   I was also interested in the theme struck by both        
Bradbury and Dillard about "knowing you are alive."  Is     
this a common theme in coming of age books that I've missed 
before?  It seems highly coincidental that they both        
centered on this so much.  One of my favorites of Dillard's 
paragraphs on this subject is the following:                
   Knowing you are alive is feeling the planet buck under   
you, rear, kick, and try to throw you; you hang onto the    
ring.  It is riding the planet like a log downstream,       
whooping.  Or, conversely, you step aside from the          
dreaming fast loud routine and feel time as a stillness     
about you, and hear the silent air asking in so thin a      
voice, Have you noticed yet that you will die?  Do you      
remember, remember, remember?  Then you feel your life as a 
weekend, a weekend you cannot extend, a weekend in the      
    This is a paragraph that I'd like to print out, frame   
and hang near my computer desk.                             
    And, on a tiny detail note, I loved that she talked     
about "the innumerable righteous orange-bound biographies I 
read."  Those filled my days when I was 8 or 9 and I've     
never found anyone else who remembers reading them.         
"Righteous" describes them perfectly.  What heroic figures  
they made of every single historic figure!           Barb   

===============   Reply   37 of Note   20 =================

To:     TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Date:    03/21
From:   NCSH82B    BARBARA MOORS         Time:    10:23 AM

And, Ann, I loved hearing that you liked ANGELA'S ASHES.  I 
had the same dread about the depressing theme and yet       
instead felt that same respect for his survival and         
attitude.  You emerge on the other side feeling a sort      
of exuberance that we all have the potential for such       
strength.  ELLEN FOSTER gave me a muted version of the same 
feeling...muted because it was far more fictional, probably.

===============   Reply   38 of Note   20 =================

To:     NCSH82B    BARBARA MOORS         Date:    03/21
From:   KXBZ24A    ANNE WILFONG          Time:    12:39 PM

Barb, I read every single one of theose biographies when I  
was in the 2nd and 3rd grades. I loved the childhood        
portions more than the adult accomplishments. I particularly
remeber the ones about Jim Thorpe and patrick Henry. Don't  
ask me why!                                                 

===============   Reply   39 of Note   20 =================

To:     KXBZ24A    ANNE WILFONG          Date:    03/21
From:   NCSH82B    BARBARA MOORS         Time:     3:37 PM

For some reason, Clara Barton got big play in my memory.    
Do you remember the silhouette illustrations?       Barb    

===============   Reply   40 of Note   20 =================

To:     NCSH82B    BARBARA MOORS         Date:    03/21
From:   KDEX08B    RUTH BAVETTA          Time:     8:25 PM

Hi, all.  I really enjoyed this book.  I found it an easier 
guess that's because it was more of a story and less        
philosophical.  A little mouse of doubt began niggling at me
about halfway through, though.  Do you think she was REALLY 
such an organized, intellectually curious child, or is she  
polishing things up a bit?  I mean, I had rock collections, 
and matchbook collections and butterfly collections.  I drew
and made lists of things to do.  But I never followed       
anything through to the extent she seems to have.  She must 
have been an extremely organized kid.  I've used the drawing
book she used.  The lessons are really for adults.  They    
involve long sometimes tedious drawing sessions every day.  
What kid has the stick-to-itiveness to do that?  And her    
identification of minerals is the kind of stuff I did in    
college.  Do you think she worked so methodically?  Or does 
she just remember it as such because of the gloss that      
childhood tends to acquire over time?                       
Ruth, no stranger to the Mohs Hardness Scale herself        

===============   Reply   41 of Note   20 =================

To:     KDEX08B    RUTH BAVETTA          Date:    03/21
From:   NCSH82B    BARBARA MOORS         Time:     9:05 PM

Well, I don't know, Ruth.  I tended to buy it, but I can be 
gullible.  I did think that she was an especially hungry,   
slightly obsessive child.  But, I'm also not sure that the  
actual day-to-day facts are the point in this book.  The    
essay qualities of it are my favorite and even              
the characters, whether they are fictionalized or not.      
  I did some Internet surfing tonight about Dillard and     
found a couple of good articles about her.  She was born in 
1945...somehow from AAC, I got the impression that she was  
born before that.  When she went away to college, she       
married her writing instructor.  She's quoted a couple of   
times as saying that this relationship was incredibly good  
for her writing.  The experiences that led to PILGRIM were  
prompted by a very serious bout of pnuemonia which made her 
think that she had to get away for some time by herself.    
She was 29 when she won the Pulitzer for that book.         
   One article about her made reference to her being        
married and divorced several times but I didn't find        
anything more specific than that.  In any case, an article  
written in '96 said that she'd been married to her current  
husband for 9 years and it sounded like she had children.   
   There are also a couple of reprints of the infamous      
interview in which she made her disparaging comments about  
Northwestern women.  There were an equal number of such     
comments about how NW men treat women.  I actually found    
her kind of likeable in the article.  She certainly wasn't  
being politically correct, but she was being honest, very   
off the cuff.                                               
   Hope all of the above is accurate.  I didn't print any   
of it out.  Also found 2 pictures of her.  She looks        
pretty, open and intelligent.  I'm always fascinated to     
find these pictures of authors, for some reason.            

===============   Reply   42 of Note   20 =================

To:     NCSH82B    BARBARA MOORS         Date:    03/21
From:   FNMN56E    LYNN EVANS            Time:     9:28 PM

Barb and Ruth, Considering she grew into the sort of person 
who could spend however long living on the edge of a creek  
in backwoods Virginny, maybe she would almost have to be    
that sort of kid?                                           
My most memorable scene from Tinker Creek: coming upon the  
frog that, surprisingly, didn't jump -- then discovering a  
large insect sucking its innards out from behind.           
Goodness. I will never complain about freeway driving again.

===============   Reply   43 of Note   20 =================

To:     NCSH82B    BARBARA MOORS         Date:    03/22
From:   TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Time:    10:32 AM

Thanks for the biographical information. I wondered what    
kind of family life she ended up with after she left home.  
And Ruth, I would say that she had a strong obsessive       
tendency, which goes a long way towards explaining her      
childhood discipline. Such people aren't easy to live with, 
but if the obsessiveness isn't too extreme, they can be high
contributors to society.                                    

===============   Reply   44 of Note   20 =================

To:     TQWX67A    ANN DAVEY             Date:    03/22
From:   KDEX08B    RUTH BAVETTA          Time:     1:47 PM

Lynn and Ann, you may be right about Dillard's personality. 
It was just hard for me to believe a child could have such a
drive to follow through on all those projects.              
Putting that aside, tho, I could see parallels between her  
childhood and mine.  Not the moneyed part.  My dad was a    
college prof, you don't get rich doing that, but her endless
fascination with the world around her.  I was a kid like    
that, too.  (I just didn't do it as efficiently as she      
evidently did.)  Empty lots were heaven.  The Santa Monica  
mountains were my refuge.                                   
And there was a very similar attitude towards jokes and     
humor in my family.  In fact, I think we communicated better
on that level than any other.                               
Perhaps because I was like Annie in so many ways (including 
a flirtation with the wild side as a teen), was why I was   
skeptical of her veracity when it came to things that didn't
jibe with my own life.                                      

===============   Reply   45 of Note   20 =================

To:     KDEX08B    RUTH BAVETTA          Date:    03/22
From:   FNMN56E    LYNN EVANS            Time:     2:07 PM

Ruth, I suspect a fascination with the world around us      
characterizes most of us on the board. Ditto sense of humor.
And yet we're different in many other ways: some of us are  
dreamers, others more practical, some organized, others all 
over the place, etc. etc. Perhaps curiosity, sense of humor,
etc. etc. aren't driving factors for particular personality 
types, but more on the order of blue eyes and brown hair -- 
they can show up anywhere. Lynn                             


Annie Dillard

I was relieved to read a book with so much joy in it. Dillard's book seems to be a more intellectual self-history than some other memoirs; it's so concerned with the life of the mind.
-S Thomsen
Her view of teenage boys as something wonderful made me realize that I used to feel that way about boys at that age. Since, I now teach teenage boys, I find them to be gawky, funny, charming, and out-of-control but not wonderful. AAC reminded me how my viewpoint has changed.
In Association with