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Holy the Firm

Annie Dillard

But how do we know - how could we know - that the real is there? By what freak chance does the skin of illusion ever split, and reveal to us the real, which seems to know us by name, and by what freak chance and why did the capacity to prehend it evolve?
— Dillard

The question her writing wrestles with is the theme of these book:

“…one of the few questions worth asking, to wit, What in the Sam Hill is going on here?”

Dillard was the first author for whom I had to read every word. This, rivaled only by For the Time Being, is the funkiest, most challenging and ‘far-out’ of her writing.

Like Borges, Dillard teaches what more is possible in literature, and how writing can be a practice of awakening.

“And we need reminding of what time can do, must only do; churn out enormity at random and beat it, with God’s blessing, into our heads: that we are created, created, sojourners in a land we did not make, a land with no meaning of itself and no meaning we can make for it alone.”

I’d quote each passage if I could. At 76 pages in length, you could read the whole book 76 times and still only find yourself on the surface of the strange, twisting displays. But it’s the strange that dissolves the confines of dead & dull normalcy, that breathes life and zest into the workings of the mind. In this sense, Dillard remains an undying gust of wind to her readers, beaten by time at random as we are.