Sister Zoe longed for the taste of food over the tongue—the tang of garlic and salt and tomato on a pizza, the mild creaminess of milk, the messy sweetness of an orange torn open with the teeth. Instead, the doctors nourished her evaporating body with clear liquids that dripped through tubes into her veins. They wouldn’t let her near food, for fear she would choke. Nonetheless, she missed the soul of food, the taste of something other than her own dry mouth. Her journey to death was becoming a long, solitary march through the desert. She waited for visions to […]
Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed? Can the writer isolate and vivify all in experience that most deeply engages our intellects and our hearts? … Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so that we may feel again their majesty and power?
―Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
Fiction is about everything human and we are made out of dust, and if you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn’t try to write fiction.
“Look, Jim! It’s more cool bovine scenery,” Annie, who had just taken over driving, said cheerfully. I glanced up from the map I was studying (being in the navigator’s seat) and Zoe popped up in the back where she had been curled up on sleeping bags and pillows, trying to catch forty winks. “Moo, moo, little cows,” Annie said. “Moo, moo.” “Since when are there cows in South Carolina?” Zoe said, pulling her black stocking cap up over her eyes. She was dying of cancer, and her hair hadn’t grown back since she stopped chemotherapy. Back in Minnesota it was […]
She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door. She would not wait for him any longer, even though Edward had said, “Stay at home, love, and wait for me,” because that must have been hours ago, and where was he? Out picking blackberries, she thought. Him with a bucket hat pulled over his bare head and a couple of pails, whistling something happy. Once, she would have gone with him. But that was before she fell down the stairs and everyone said next time she might break a hip, so no […]
THE RIVER FLOWS SOUTH, AND ALL THE FLOWING WATERS OF half a continent run to it—morning dew, whole gray-white fields of melting snow, rain running down rooftops and cascading through the leaves of trees, rivulets in the streets, brooks and streams and creeks and tributaries—all wash clean over the people and the land, drawing together in the broad and heavy river that pushes south. Even teardrops move to find solace in the warm southern sea; shed too many tears, and they will bear your soul along with them. A loose enough body might follow, only half aware of the currents […]