Dillard never lets the reader lose track of the season under consideration, but much more than a calendar year binds Pilgrim at Tinker Creek together. The book presents the reader with a view of the outer world as it is reconstructed indoors—filtered, sorted, and sifted through the writer’s own inner world. “I bloom indoors in the winter like a forced forsythia; I come in to come out. At night I read and write, and things I have never understood become clear; I reap the harvest of the rest of the year’s planting,” Dillard writes. At one point, Dillard calls her book “a mental ramble” and refers to her mind as a “trivia machine.” “Like the bear who went over the mountain,” she says, I wanted to “see what I could see.”
What Dillard sees and records includes what she has read. Her book includes references to philosophy, religion, insects, Arctic exploration, medicine, poetry, and various other subjects. She devotes several pages to a summary of a book about newly sighted persons and their experience of the world. The pattern of the entire text could perhaps best be described as following the formula “I went here, I saw this, it made me think of this, I saw something else, and then I came home.”
In many ways, Dillard’s text reads like a travelogue. One finds many of that genre’s typical markers: “I set out,” “I go,” “I sit,” “I cross,” “West of the house,” and “north of me.” Yet the book is no more a travelogue than it is a psalm, a field book, a reflection, a diary, a poem, an eyewitness account. The book defies classification...
(The entire section is 659 words.)