Spareness

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They shook hands and hers felt hot under sand like a sugar doughnut. Under her high brows she eyed him straight on and straight across. She had gone to girls’ schools, he recalled later. Those girls looked straight at you. Her wide eyes, apertures opening, seemed preposterously to tell him, I and these my arms are for you. I know, he thought back at the stranger, this long-limbed girl. I know and I am right with you.
–Annie Dillard, The Maytrees, P. 7

 

Maytree concealed his courtship. On the Cairos’ crowded porch, she steadied her highball on the rail. He asked her, Would she like to row around the harbour with him? She turned and gave him a look, Hold on, Buster. He was likely competing with fleets and battalions of men. Maytree wanted her heart. She had his heart and did not know it. She shook her head, clear of eye, and smiled.

–Annie Dillard, The Maytrees P. 9


 

I was twenty-seven in 1972 when I began writing Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. It is a young writer’s book in its excited eloquence and its metaphysical boldness. (Fools rush in.) Using the first person, I tried to be — in Emerson’s ever-ludicrous phrase — a transparent eyeball.The Maytrees shows how a writer’s craft matures into spareness: short sentences, few modifiers. The Maytrees are a woman and a man both simplified and enlarged. Everyone and everything represents itself alone. No need for microcosms or macrocosms. The Maytrees’ human tale needs only the telling. Writers’ styles often end pruned down. (I knew this happened; I did not know I was already old.)

–Annie Dillard, from the afterword to the 1998 edition of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

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