American Idol

I'm sure it doesn't surprise anyone to hear that at one time I used to carry a well worn paperback of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek in my pocket.  I called it my bible.  It feels a little embarrassing now to admit that, though I don't know why it is that certain stages of life that we have passed through, embarrass us in retrospect, just as, I suppose, certain stages of life that we haven't passed through yet, do the same.  I had never read a book like Pilgrim at Tinker Creek before, and it leveled me.  I lay on the grass in James Madison Park searching the sky, wishing I had written it.

I gave a copy to a friend of mine, a tall friend with beautiful hair who carried a very large backpack everywhere he went, as if at any moment he might stop playing frisbee and decide to study.  He was the guy I reversed directions for, crossing the street to fall in stride with him.  He talked to the most odd people and always made me laugh.  What better deal was there than that?  But it wasn't just me.  Half a dozen girls had already given him Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.  I wonder if he ever read it?  I'll have to remember to ask him tonight when he comes home for dinner.

I once wrote Annie Dillard a letter.  Talk about embarrassing.  I'm glad I didn't make a copy.  I'm sure I went on and on and on, hoping that she would see in my pudgy prose some fine seed of talent and scoop me up as her understudy.  Much later I remember cringing as I read that she gets a hundred letters a week from people (all young women?) who have just read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek for the first time and were leveled by it, lying in some city park staring at the sky wishing they had written it, only to have the brilliant idea to write to Ms. Dillard and tell her all about it.  Somehow I have the impression, whether from her strange website I once found with a horrible picture of her (meant to scare us off, I believe, which worked on me) or whether from an interview, or from something I made up, that she suffers under the crushing weight of these letters.  She'd rather we didn't write.  Just think how depressing!  Bucketfuls of earnest young women, tumbling onto her doorstep every day just because she happened to write the very thing to ignite the imaginations of every college girl who has ever taken a walk in the woods.

Needless to say, I did not get a letter back.


  1. I remember reading that book with you on our poster run!

  2. J- I felt the same way about An American Childhood by Annie Dillard. Blew me away.