‘The Abundance’ is a collection of personal essays by Annie Dillard, published by Canongate Books.
Ok. I’m pretty late to board the Annie Dillard train. This is the first book that I’ve read by her, and my God, it will not be the last. I was absolutely stunned. I’ve always been a fan of the personal essay – it is a very underrated genre, in my opinion. They’re not easy to write – too detached a voice and you just become academic, too personal a voice it becomes uncomfortably masturbatory. Dillard’s voice is spot on. She’s absolutely batty, and I bloody love it.
The essays buzz with curiosity, intelligence, and pure spirituality. She discusses nature, palaeontology, jokes, childhood hijinks, and in my favourite essay, ‘An Expedition to the Pole’, polar exploration and baptism. (Other favourites include ‘Newborn and Salted’, and ‘Disneyland’, for entirely different reasons). She has a fact and a story and an observation for even the smallest details of life. Some of the more scientific passages seem a bit long, but I didn’t mind – I trusted Dillard to use the science to make a truly unique observation about the world. And she always did.
I consumed this book in a course of one evening. Once I got a taste of her way of thinking, I had to know what she thought about sand, or playing secret childhood games. In some ways, I wish that I had read it slowly, one essay per day, or per week, allowing myself to be slowly drawn into Annie Dillard’s wondrous world. I can’t wait to re-read it at a slower pace and discover a whole host of nuance and intellectualism that I know that I’ve missed.
Many of the essays in this collection have been published elsewhere, however. (If not all of them). I don’t know if I would buy it (at least, not hardback) if I had read the essays before. This is a pet peeve of mine, though, and some might not mind. And really, her voice is so magnetic that it doesn’t matter.
‘The Abundance’ is to be published 7th April 2016.