Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dear Annie Dillard: (pt. 2)

My promise to Annie Dillard has been kept. I finished her book "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" this morning. What a brilliantly creative and perceptive woman.

I've now finished two books this year, and it's still January. I'm going to keep two tangible piles of books this year: the ones I've read and the ones on my list to be read. Hopefully it'll help keep me on task. Next on the list is "The Sparrow" by Mary Doria Russell. I hope to be moving through books quickly enough this year that I can be a little less careful, and a little more adventurous in my reading selections.

In "Blue Like Jazz," the first book I read this year, Donald Miller goes into detail about the effects of spending too much time by himself. Amongst these effects, he talks about reading a lot and beginning to have "conversations" with people like Emily Dickinson who he'd been reading a lot of at the time. He even talks about visiting the house in Amherst, MA, where she lived in the 19th century and confesses to a romantic (in a nice, "kiss-of-the-hand" way...not a gross, "gratuitous-'love'-scene" way) relationship he'd love to have with her were she still alive.

I expressed briefly that Miller's book spoke to me in a way that met me where I am in life right now. I think he and I are rather kindred spirits and I hope to meet him sometime off the radar, off the record so we can have a candid conversation between two pilgrims on the same voyage. That being said, I think I sort of get where he's coming from.

Miller's and Dillard's books are both full of personal opinions and experiences. After finishing both books, I found myself with an overwhelming desire to meet persons behind the personas. It probably has a lot to do with that particular style of writing. For example, after reading Lord of the Rings, I wanted to meet Gandalf and Aragorn, not necessarily Tolkien...although that'd be cool too. I think it also has to do with the fact that I'm simply a poor listener in person. Books, however, offer a one-way communication in which I have no option but to listen and ponder what the other person says. I have no option to retort, and so I keep my comments to myself...hopefully something I learn to do more in person.

I wouldn't feign to even begin to understand Miller or Dillard, but I would most certainly REALLY relish buying them a cup of coffee and just talking with them for a brief spell. I would feel silly about this if it were for some sort of personal gain, but I'd really just like the pleasure of walking a few moments of this life together with them and no more. People were created to need and enjoy each doesn't seem unreasonable.

Anyway, what I needn't forget is that most of the people who were aware of Dickinson in her lifetime found her reclusive, odd, and didn't know she even wrote. It wasn't till she died that she was discovered and published properly. Tragic. Whereas I'd love to meet both Donald Miller and Annie Dillard, I won't be found wanting should opportunity never present itself. I'm surrounded by people everyday, and I'm learning that they're all very interesting. As I get better about focusing outward rather than inward, I think there are a lot of unexpected adventures to be had. It's high time for me to start "seeing" the people around me and the unique beauty that's within every one of them. By not doing so, I do both them and myself a terrible disservice.

Dear Annie Dillard:

I kept my promise and finished your book and enjoyed it thoroughly. If you're ever in the Nashville area, look up ol' Handygraham. It would be my distinct privilege and honor to buy you a cup of coffee, or your beverage of choice. Thanks for being you.



Dear Donald Miller:

I shan't re-invent the wheel, but the same goes for you, my friend. A cup of coffee is hardly a fair trade-off for how much I enjoyed your book, but hey, it is what it is.

just as sincerely,



  1. Solid post again Graham! You have got to read Miller's new book 'A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.' To me the second best part about reading a book is getting to discuss it.

  2. Don will be in nashville: