About Me

I have an M.F.A. in creative writing and an M.A. in literature from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and am now a Ph.D. candidate in literature at the University of Minnesota.

"Standing on Stones with Annie Dillard," my essay on community, the individual, and the way quotations work in Dillard's For the Time Being, was published by Wolverine Farm  (Matter 10: Village, Summer 2007).

I live in Minneapolis with my wife, the writer Kendra Atleework.

If you would like to contact me, you may post a comment below or write a letter:

Jonas Gardsby
15481 Michele Lane
Eden Prairie, MN 55346


Anonymous Sean said...

Hey, just wanted to say that it is a great resource that you have here! Recently just finished rereading Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and it was great returning to it, like an old friend! Have read all of books and am just now starting to search out her smaller pieces.

Thanks for all the great info!

April 23, 2005 10:36 AM  
Anonymous psora said...

I found the following quote on several web sites, none of which give adequate citation. One seems to suggest that it is in Pilgrim, but I think not. Do you know about it? Thanks in advance.
"In nature I find grace tangled in a rapture with violence; I find an intricate landscape whose forms are fringed in death; I find mystery, newness, and a kind of exuberant, spendthrift energy."

June 01, 2005 4:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say this was a nice resource for me to get started on a paper I'm doing on Annie. If you have any ideas on where I might further research her background, etc. Please email me at luna_tikk99@yahoo.com.

July 28, 2005 1:09 PM  
Anonymous pgh native said...

To psora--
I am nearly certain the quote is from "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek"....those are powerful words not soon forgotten.

August 16, 2005 3:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for having such a great website

August 28, 2005 3:09 PM  
Anonymous war401@jaguar1.usouthal.edu said...

I have experienced insane coincidenses in Annie Dillard's books and my life. No one believes me.

September 16, 2005 9:22 AM  
Blogger AaronJ said...

I just stumbled on your site. Good stuff! Annie is one my favorite authors and I keep enjoying her work. Starting with Pilgrim the journey has begun. Thanks for creating this space.

November 09, 2005 11:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this site... I should help me a lot with a research paper I have to do on PTC. I especially appreciate the links and quotations!

November 25, 2005 8:24 PM  
Anonymous Steve Schulz said...

Hard to bleive that after 53 years of living and reading, my favorite fiction and non fiction books are from the same person. When I populate my town in heaven with my favorite 50 people, Aniie is selected first, followed by Walt and Emmy Lou. Jesus will be there just to get his side of the story. Am happy to have found all Annies books as first editions.



December 06, 2005 5:42 AM  
Anonymous cynd32@aol.com said...

A lovely site!
My favorite Annie Dillard books are For The Time Being and The Annie Dillard Reader which is sort of like an Annie Dillard buffet,isn't it? Over the years I have had to buy a few copies of each because they fall apart from being read over and over or I misplace a copy and panic that I've lost it. I push them on friends with the wild-eyed recommendation: "Read this!"
A week or so later, the book is returned to me-"I'm so busy...no time to read...she writes about sand?!?"
How can anyone NOT read her books?
Nice to see some kindred spirits here.

December 28, 2005 2:14 AM  
Anonymous Joybon said...


This is a marvellous site with a lovely layout. Delighted to find others passionate about her work and ideas (and, most of all, the questions).

I started with Pilgrim, then Holy the Firm, For the Time Being and Tickets.

It is tricky because I want to lend them to everyone, yet it is hard to surrender them.



June 10, 2006 10:42 AM  
Blogger James Marcus said...

Dear Bryan Erickson,

Perhaps you'd like to add this 1999 interview to your site? If so, be my guest.

All best,
James Marcus

Metaphysical Graffiti
After producing a novel and a collection of found poetry, Annie Dillard now returns to her literary stomping ground: the extended essay. For the Time Being is, on one hand, a work of theodicy--a vindication of God's essential goodness. But to make this point, Dillard juggles 10 mini-narratives, touching upon sand and obstetrics, clouds and Hasidism, her own travels and those of the French paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Amazon.com's James Marcus began the conversation by asking the author how she chose these essayistic ingredients.

Amazon.com: In an essay on writing memoirs, you once said that the nonfiction writer's biggest challenge was determining what to leave in and what to leave out. How did you make those decisions when you were assembling For the Time Being?
Annie Dillard: The pieces fit together to make a big picture, a really big picture. They all had a story to tell.
Amazon.com: Each individual element?
Dillard: Right. Some were things that I've been taking notes on for years. Clouds with their dates, for example. I'd given Gary Trudeau a list of the elements, and he said he couldn't wait to read the book if only to find out what in the world I could possibly mean by "dated clouds."
Amazon.com: So how far back are we going? Ten years?
Dillard: No, at least 20--maybe even 30. I've always been interested in the natural history of sand. I've always been interested in Hasidism. What are the other ones?
Amazon.com: There's all the material on birth defects. Have long have you been a student of Smith's Recognizable Patterns of Human Malformation, which you discuss in the very first chapter?
Dillard: Not long. I borrowed it from my obstetrician. During a routine checkup, she was telling me about some odd baby that she had delivered, and she showed me a picture of it in the book. And I said, "Oh my gosh, can I borrow this?" Because I've always been interested in natural calamity. In fact, this is the third book I wrote about it--the first was Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and the second was Holy the Firm. Anyway, the obstetrics manual was astounding: I could only bear to look at it for 20 minutes at a time, and then I'd have to get up and walk around and work on something else.
Amazon.com: Were there things that got left on the cutting-room floor?
Dillard: Originally I was going to have a big section about sea turtles, because I've seen a lot of them hatch. I've helped them climb out of the nest, the little ones at the bottom, and held them up so they could see which way the water was. But then I said, "Wait. I've got enough here. I've got quite enough."
Amazon.com: Now, once you settled on the final elements, how did you figure out the structure of the book?
Dillard: I had to figure out where everything was going to go, and in what order. So I xeroxed off a bunch of enormous grids, with 7 chapters going across the top and the 10 topics going down the side. Then I would fiddle with them mentally, saying, "Oh, no, this has to come before that, and now the reader needs a break, we can't have too many rabbis quoted in a row." [laughs] I ended up with about 20 different outlines. It was a lot of fun to write, this book--I always saw it as sort of exuberant.
Amazon.com: You felt that exuberance in the actual writing?
Dillard: Oh, yeah. I mean, insofar as one ever does. [laughs] You know, I thought this book could be really wonderful, and it turns out people are liking it. And I'm just stunned, because it seems so ambitious and distant. So... austere.
Amazon.com: Did you worry that the austerity would make for a less accessible book?
Dillard: Of course. It eliminates a whole bunch of readers who want a character they can identify with and so forth. Unity of time, place, and action. I'd love to write such a book sometime. But this wasn't it.
Amazon.com: It seems to me that much of For the Time Being is a prolonged meditation on God's presence or absence.
Dillard: I would never use the word meditation. I mean, there is some thinking.
Amazon.com: Okay, let's put it another way. You present several different models for thinking about God--there's the incessant puppeteer and there's the hands-off deity, not to mention the Baal Shem Tov's God, who inflicts evil upon mankind to teach or punish. Which of these have you yourself believed in?
Dillard: These ideas have interested me ever since I took a theology course in college. And needless to say, anyone who thinks about God at all must immediately come to terms with the problem of evil--both moral evil and natural calamity. But children (and people who haven't thought about God since they were children) will naturally take the puppeteer: the old man in the sky who's hurling tornadoes at towns, causing avalanches, to reward or punish or teach. Or to test.
Amazon.com: Did you believe in that God as a child?
Dillard: I wonder. I don't know. I certainly believed in God when I was a child, but I didn't ask myself these questions.
Amazon.com: Are you a churchgoing person these days?
Dillard: Sometimes.
Amazon.com: I ask because you allude to various services throughout the book. I wondered whether you attended on a mundane, ritualistic basis or--
Dillard: Gosh, ritual isn't mundane.
Amazon.com: But do you go to church to take part in a community, or is it a sacred occasion?
Dillard: Oh, yes, it's a sacred occasion. I like the liturgy. I love the liturgy.
Amazon.com: You write of Teilhard, "Like most scientists, he was an Aristotelian, not a Platonist." In some ways, For the Time Being makes him sound like both. But I wondered how you would classify yourself.
Dillard: I'm a Platonist.
Amazon.com: Yet all your books include this intense focus on the particulars of the natural world, which suggests that you're batting for the Aristotelian team.
Dillard: Well, one is a writer, trying to vivify things--and yeah, the page always starts with materials. But in my own thinking, I happen to be a Platonist. A neo-Platonist, actually, but I can't imagine that that would interest anybody.
Amazon.com: How about when you wrote The Living? Does fiction bring out the closet Aristotelian in you?
Dillard: Well, in that case I had one huge story and a bunch of substories, and it was no occasion for philosophizing, so I didn't do it. [laughs] I loved writing that book.
Amazon.com: Do you want to write another novel?
Dillard: Want? Oh, I want to desperately. And I'm paying a nickel apiece for ideas. (Actually, I've been saying that to people, and someone just told me he'd seen some other writer saying the same thing in print. Oh, hell.) In any case, I go years between books trying to think of something sufficiently interesting and challenging to get me at all excited.
Amazon.com: So you're waiting to be struck by the appropriate bolt of lightning?
Dillard: I can't wait! When you're around people who write about the contemporary world and our lives, you see how everything transmutes into their fiction. And it seems so easy for them! It's as though they've got this wonderful machine, and they put in life and crank the handle, and out comes fiction at the other end. But since I'm not very interested in contemporary culture or mores--since I've spent my entire writing life trying to avoid the real world, and my entire life, in fact--well, I'm not going to fill up pages with the things that people like me have to cope with every day. There's quite enough of it. No brand names for me. [laughs]
Amazon.com: Do you enjoy it when other novelists write about brand names and contemporary mores?
Dillard: I like reading anything that's any good.
Amazon.com: What have you been reading recently with particular pleasure?
Dillard: I read Lord Jim again recently and was just astounded. You know, you've got to read through everything again as you age--it's all different and braver than you thought. I had the same experience not long ago when I reread Dr. Zhivago. There's very little love story, I discovered: it's only about an eighth of the book, if that. Maybe a tenth. But Pasternak's sense of beauty was so pronounced! I've also been reading lots of Hardy. And I just finished For Whom the Bell Tolls, which I hadn't read since I was 18 or something.
Amazon.com: Any good?
Dillard: Wonderful! I loved it! And I'm fortunate in that I can't remember what I read, so everything is completely new! [laughs]
Amazon.com: In the midst of all this reading, are you doing any writing of your own?
Dillard: No, I'm just waiting in fear and trembling for this new book to crash.
Amazon.com: It's not going to crash. Now, one last question. You quote a letter that Hegel wrote to Goethe, in which he referred to the "oyster-like, gray, or quite black Absolute." I wondered what color you thought the absolute was.
Dillard: Well, there are three different color samples for the absolute in that passage. Allah, you may recall, is supposed to resemble a bar of pure metal. The Buddha looks like the orb of the sun. And that's the kind of question I had to deal with in writing For the Time Being. Do you put those three swatches together, or do you spread them apart? In that case, I decided to put them together. You know, after years of reading and accumulating this stuff, it's always fun to find a project that lets you combine it. What I hope is that it's vivid.

June 10, 2006 11:34 PM  
Anonymous sb767392@hotmail.com said...

My book club just finished reading Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. I wish that I had come across your site sooner if you are in fact still in Boulder (we meet in Denver) as we would have loved to ask you to join us. I’m sure you would have all sorts of insights to provide.

Great site!

July 31, 2006 2:31 PM  
Blogger alice612 said...

Thanks for this website.
I was looking for reviews of 'The Maytrees' and found this site.
I'm really enjoying it, but puzzled.
It seems like in the first few pages, Dearie is 35, six years older than Lou( who would be 29), but then in the next few pages, when she first see's Toby's shack, Lou is 23.
Anyone else reading this book who knows what I'm talking about?
Well, back to this otherwise lovely, lyrical book.

June 30, 2007 8:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Jonas, I can't find Matter 10: Village; could you post a pdf. of your essay? Also, here is a link to a Youtube video from the Harper's anniversary that is funny and characteristic of her public speaking: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fy9XCmhqYbw

May 05, 2008 4:36 AM  
Anonymous Jonas said...

Thank you, previous commenter, for the video link! I'll put it in the bibliography. Unfortunately, I don't have a pdf file of the essay. But if you give me a way to contact you, I can get it to you in another format.

May 05, 2008 5:35 AM  
Blogger Amanda said...

Hi there Jonas-
Just wanted to tell you how much I appreciated your essay in the Matter reader and how it has shaped my life a bit. I stumbled upon it at the Matter book store in FC one day-- loved the essay so much I ordered Annie's book. Loved Annies book so much I wound up reading all I could get my hands on of her work. I have also gone back to school to work on a Masters of Theology- and all of these writings have been so formative for me. Thanks! and I hope you will keep writing as well.

May 14, 2010 5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


First, your site is brilliant, and a great help; thank you for taking the time.
Second, I am wondering if you have ever compiled a bibliography of the original sources which AD quotes in PTC?
Third, I am interested in the article you published on FTB's quotations, as this sounds like the angle I am taking with PTC in my own studies. Can you tell me where I can find a copy?

Thank you again for your time and effort.


December 22, 2011 12:26 PM  
Blogger Peaceful/Paisible/Sarah/Pixabeille/Mousie said...

Thank you so much dear for your great job, I'm going to redhead it carefully ! very useful to me !
all the best from FRANCE

July 19, 2012 5:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

loved american childhood read it at least twenty times and never took my eyes off of it for a second

October 23, 2012 10:20 AM  
Blogger Richard Hurn said...

In praise and awe of the courageously awake, open-hearted Ms Dillard - the raw astral death zone of "Eclipse" strains the mind to disassociate. Feeling that unfathomable untethered mmon walk fries the synapses when struggling to maintain wakefulness in its zone. Of course we would scream as the black wall overwhelms us at 1800 mph. Yet you dared for us. It reminds me of how ultraviolet light shreds every carbon compound on the face of the panet, much like free radicals shorten our chromosomal telomeres exposing out DNA to genetic shredding. Such is the dance of life inviting us to awaken to our deat

June 10, 2013 3:02 PM  

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