This book is like a book of blog posts, you know, before there were blogs. Annie Dillard lives on Tinker Creek. She documents, in stream of consciousness essay style, some of her observations of nature. She throws in some facts that she "knows" (in quotes because there were a few things that were wrong, but my science education started 20 years after this was published, so I don't fault her) and goes off on a lot of tangents. She'll start with something and end up talking about newly sighted blind people, or of contradictions or of God or of nature's profligate waste or whatever it is that's floating around in her head.
The book was somewhat difficult for me. It wanders and meanders. One one hand, she goes on about some scene she has seen in nature, which is delightful to read and reminds me of some of the remarkable things I've seen in nature. On the other hand, she wanders into tangents that either don't matter or are not interesting. Because she takes her time to meander around subjects and go off into the most boring series of thoughts, it was hard for me to continue reading. However, I thought her writing was beautiful. The prose was absolutely gorgeous. It's like finding some food that has the most amazing texture. It slides down the tongue of your brain in pure textural delight. The problem is, the flavor is terrible.
I will admit, I'm not a fan of stream of conscious style writing. I rarely have trouble reading it (Faulkner notwithstanding), I can't help but find it annoying. And it's the whole book.
There's a lot of philosophy - God and contradictions. Thoughts of nature and fecundity and waste and destiny and randomness and observation vs seeing and innocence and self-awareness. I like my books to be about something, not about being about something.
The philosophical wanderings in this book do feel young. Kind of like a bunch of college students. They're young and brilliant and invincible and sitting on the floor, drunk, after a party discussing deep, deep thoughts. It's that kind of young metaphysical meanderings.
One of the things that bugged me the most about this book was the anthropomorphizing of so much. She did it for nature, for bugs, for trees. For someone who likes to pull in science or facts (yeah I know, she also blathers about God and other silliness), it just annoyed me. Probably more than it should have, given the kind of book it is.
Sometimes, when I'm reading, my mind wanders. I find myself 4 or 5 pages further than I last remember... I've been reading, but not reading. I have to go back and re-read to catch what I missed. I did that a lot in this book, except that my mind never wandered. I just couldn't be bothered to digest what I was being fed. Eventually I learned to ignore the metaphysical junk and just focus on the anecdotes of nature and enjoy those. And it made the book a little easier to bear.
It's deep. It's spiritual. It's pretty. I get it, I just don't care.