Book Review, Holy the Firm by Annie Dillard

Holy the Firm, Annie Dillard

Really, what is more fun than finding a hidden bookstore in a hidden little town filled with faded boxes full of books looking like no one has peeled back the box flap for fifteen years? I was at said store a short time ago, rooting through said boxes, and found a treasure: a slim volume covered and stained with raspberry jam. It was one of those books that make the agony and angst of loving books and ideas worthwhile. I love Annie Dillard, so this went straight into the basket when I dug it out from underneath a few newspapers and a beat-up Farmer’s almanac, smelling like dirt.

I knew it would be good. What of anything from Dillard isn’t? Using Puget Sound as her self-imposed moat, she repaired away to an island for a couple of years to think things through. I’m thinking that maybe more of us should stop and watch and think and write for a couple of years. There is an almost imperceptible inner longing that runs throughout the book. A longing for meaning amidst the spiderwebs and boat motors and frosty windows. I imagine Dillard straining over every word and every nuance and her effort comes through to the reader in great depth. She’s not always accessible and I know people who just can’t wade through her books. I don’t argue – she’s rarely breezy and always deep but I always find her writing to be satisfying, challenging, and expanding. A rare gem. Please read. And if you’re already read the book, please read it again. The earth will be a better place for it.

Regarding the tone, here is a slice from Dillard herself, spilling the beans about the content. Some of you will run:

Nothing is going to happen in this book. There Is only a little violence here and there in the language, at the corner where eternity clips time.

There is some biology, she’s surrounded by the sea and mountains after all, some psychology, and lots of theology. Not academic theology, with parsed Greek tenses, but the kind that comes from living and observing and thinking hard. I don’t know here intent in writing this, but it makes me want to be more observant, to, and to think deeper about what I see.


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