For my Friday meme combo this week I have chosen Annie Dillard’s For the Time Being. Ever since I read her Pilgrim at Tinker Creek I have really enjoyed her writing. This one has been on my shelf for quite a while, so it’s time I got around to reading it. The following description is from the slipcover of the book:
Following a novel, a memoir, and a book of poems, Annie Dillard returns to a form of nonfiction she has made her own–now, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the publication of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.
This personal narrative surveys the panorama of our world, past and present. Here is a natural history of sand, a catalogue of clouds, a batch of newborns on an obstetrical ward, a family of Mongol horsemen. Here is the story of Jesuit paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin digging in the deserts of China. Here is the story of Hasidic thought rising in Eastern Europe. Here are defect and beauty together, miracle and tragedy, time and eternity. Dillard poses questions about God, natural evil, and individual existence. Personal experience, science, and religion bear on a welter of fact. How can an individual matter? How might one live?
Compassionate, informative, enthralling, always surprising, For the Time Being shows one of our most original writers–her breadth of knowledge matched by keen powers of observation, all of it informing her relentless curiosity–in the fullness of her powers.
Now for this week’s excerpts:
Book Beginnings is hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader, who invites anyone to join in, saying: ‘Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author. Leave a link to your post. If you don’t have a blog, but want to participate, please leave a comment with your Book Beginning.’
The beginning of For the Time Being:
Birth. I have in my hands the standard manual of human birth defects. Smith’s Recognizable Patterns of Human Malformation, by Kenneth Lyon Jones, M.D., professor of pediatrics at UC-San Diego, 1988, is a volume to which, in conscience, I cannot recommend your prolonged attention.
This is a different kind of beginning. Even without the lack of recommendation I think that the book mentioned would be one I would be avoiding anyway!
*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56.
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
*Add your (url) post below in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url.
It’s that simple.
From page 56 of For the Time Being:
He was forty-five years old when he buried 260 real Confucian scholars alive. Some accounts say he buried 460 Confucian scholars alive. It scarcely matters – two hundred here or there.
Whoever is being talked about here doesn’t sound like a pleasant person. I’m curious to workout the link between this excerpt and the opening sentences. This book should be a decent read and I really hope to get to it soon.