Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard

Review published on April 28, 2017.

In this collection of fourteen essays, Dillard brings her almost forensic observation of the natural world as well as a keen perception of the smallest detail to a wide variety of subjects. Starting with her thoughts on a solar eclipse that she travels to see in Yakima, we accompany her on her a journey to the Appalachian Mountains and all the way to the Galapagos Islands. With her we see the world through the eyes of a weasel and take a walk from her home. We also meet the man who inspired the title of the book, who is teaching a stone to speak; most will think this a futile gesture, but as Dillard explains, it is his way of communing with the natural world at the pace he desires.

The silence is all there is. It is the alpha and the omega.

There is a strong spiritual dimension to her sparse but eloquent prose. It is beyond me how she manages to pack so much meaning into so few words. Her childlike fascination with the world around is evident in the book and she manages to deftly entwine this with themes of exploration and discovery and how we can use it to watch and observe the things that happen around us. I particularly liked the essay on lenses, how it is something that you have to master before you can use it to see the far away and the near. I had never read any of her books before, but will now be working my way through her non-fiction back catalogue.

Paul Cheney 4/-

Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard
Canongate Canons 9781782118855 pbk Feb 2017

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