Is there room for Annie Dillard?

I am an author. I self published a book. Many, many others have done / are doing this. The democratization of content, it’s been called. There’s no longer any need to spend precious writing time perfecting query letters or researching agents. The gate has been pulled down, the veil torn in two. I needn’t pay for that conference on finding the right agent. Hallelujah!

I am reading Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. It’s shocking and awesome and I’m sure it will be profound. It won a Pulitzer after all. What’s it about? I can’t say yet; I’m only about a third of the way through it.

I haven’t had much time to read, you see, as I’m writing the second book in my series. Series, that’s the way to go, we writers are told. Write a lot and you increase your chances for success. What do self published authors have in common? They write a lot, especially series. So that’s what I’m doing, writing a lot. I’m writing action scenes. Things must happen. You have to hook them early, instantly, from the first word– no, earlier than that. You must hook them with your cover, your title, your book description. People are awash in content after all, and we all have notoriously short attention spans. Fruit flies, that’s what we are, drunken fruit flies. No, drunken toddler fruit flies– that’s how short are Americans’ attention spans. We writers are told.

So a third of the way in on Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, right, and I’m not yet sure what it’s about. It’s beautiful though, and terrible. It’s cutting in its realism. It will be profound. I’m sure it will be profound. Do I write profound? Is there a place for profound these days? Does the market reward profundity? Does it even allow for it?

Write a lot, especially series.

Could Pilgrim at Tinker Creek even get published nowadays? I can’t see it making Ms. Dillard the next Hugh Howey or Veronica Roth.

So why am I sticking it out for these last two thirds? Well, I’ll tell you. I blame it on Jung. For about two weeks, Annie Dillard’s name popped up everywhere– in other books I was reading, in online articles, in stories on NPR. I even had a dream about her. Well, truth be told, the dream featured Phyllis Diller, but I know my dreaming mind well, and I know she’s either a little slow or possibly stoned, so I’ve learned to decipher what she really means, and I feel certain when she showed me Phyllis Diller, she actually meant Annie Dillard. So I’m sticking it out for these next two thirds because my subconscious told me too. I should say here to that my first foray into Annie Dillard, this coming right after the dream that may or may not have been a drug trip, was The Writing Life, which was about …

Hmmm. I’m starting to see a pattern here.

So I’m wondering. Do I give myself permission to write books that aren’t likely to be profound by anyone’s measure? Do I write a lot, especially series, because I have a family to support? Would Annie Dillard chastise me for it, do you think? Would she at least forgive me? Do I have to read these last two thirds to find out?

Posted in Books, Self Publishing, Writing
One comment on “Is there room for Annie Dillard?
  1. Michelle Quirky says:

    Sorry I’m late. I’d explain, but I’m pretty sure you know the drill. 🙂

    You have permission to write whatever appeals to you. Not to you as you’d like to see yourself, but to the real you.

    Because here’s the thing: what’s profound to one person is complete rubbish to another.

    I haven’t read any Annie Dillard and, from your description, I won’t be reading any. I need story in my story. To me, to have depth and profundity, something has to happen that changes the main character. There has to be arc. I know I’d be facing a firing squad if I said that among literary people, but oh well. I’ve spent much too much time not reading books I might have liked because it was taking forever to slog through a book I thought I should like.

    I haven’t read Annie Dillard, but I did read another Pulitzer Prize winner: The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I mourn the books I didn’t read because I was slogging through that one. I can tell you what it was about, though. It’s about a man and his son in a world where there’s been some undisclosed, but horrific, apocalyptic event, walking and experiencing more horrificness on their journey to…somewhere.

    It’s depressing as all get-out, but that’s not why I hated it. I can take depressing if there’s a point to it. No, I hate The Road because the characters don’t change through the course of the novel. At the very end, there’s a small change in the cast of the novel and some people saw hope in that, but not me. I imagine it slogging on into eternity, never changing. If that ending were a real change, then I say it’s an inciting incident and should be the beginning of the novel rather than the end.

    I know people who found it profound and I’m not saying they’re wrong. I’m saying that what’s profound to one person can be rubbish to another.

    The Hunger Games is another novel that takes place after an undisclosed, horrific, apocalyptic event and horrific things happen to the main characters as they go along their own path. Both worlds were irrevocably changed by the big event that happened prior to the start of the novel. The comparison ends there, though. The characters in The Hunger Games are changed by what happens to them in the actual book. They arc. They are different people at the end than they were at the beginning. Those changes are deep and profound. Then again, maybe I’m too literal to be literary.

    I’m sure there are people out there who see The Road as profound literary perfection and The Hunger Games as genre rubbish. To me it’s the other way ’round.

    Sorry I’ve gone on and on about this. You hit on something I’ve been thinking about for a long, long time.

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