Pilgrim at Tinker Creek | Study Guide

Annie Dillard

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Course Hero, "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek Study Guide," September 26, 2017, accessed May 26, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Pilgrim-at-Tinker-Creek/.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek | Afterword | Summary

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Summary

The afterword was not present in the first edition. Dillard added it in 1999 for an anniversary edition. Now 25 years older, she ruefully remembers how her disappointment with the books of three older writers prompted her to think younger writers did better work, before they lost "the nerve for excellence." Dillard was then in her mid-20s, only a few years out of college, and she wryly confesses "nerve had never been a problem" for her.

So she set out "boldly" to write her nature book on theodicy before she got too old and then reveals how the task proved so difficult she almost gave up. She decided to organize the book according to the seasons only because everything else she tried failed. Evaluating the work now, she still thinks it is bold but acknowledges perhaps she fell a bit in love with her "grand sentences," which she now thinks are sometimes overdone.

She categorically rejects the notion the book is a collection of essays and reveals she wanted to publish the book using a male pseudonym because she believed it was the best way to get men to read it. She ends with a joking apology to students who have been forced to read her book for class. "A generation of youth has grown up cursing my name."

Analysis

The afterword reveals Dillard's astringent, almost contrarian sense of humor, directed equally at herself as well as at others. She is bemused by the requests of editors, agents, publicity directors, publishers, and reporters during the promotion of her book and still regrets being talked into using her own, decidedly female, name on the cover.

But she also looks back at her 27-year-old self and sees the hubris of youth. Having read the work of older writers, she was convinced she could do it better, only to find herself struggling to achieve her ambitious goals. She now thinks perhaps she was too confident—and too wordy. She even seems a bit embarrassed about all the acclaim her book has received.

"God save us from meditations," she writes. Nevertheless readers can sense beneath the self-deprecation is a confident assurance the book accomplished what Dillard wanted it to do. "Above all, and salvifically, it seems bold," she writes. Indeed it is.

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