cover image The Writing Life

The Writing Life

Annie Dillard. HarperCollins Publishers, $15.95 (111pp) ISBN 978-0-06-016156-9

``Every morning,'' writes Dillard, ``you enter your study . . . and slide your desk and chair into the middle of the air . . . your work is to keep cranking the flywheel that turns the gears that spin the belt in the engine of belief that keeps you and your desk in midair.'' In this collection of short essays, the author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and An American Childhood probes the sorcery that levitates her own writing, discussing with clear eye and wry wit how, where and why she writes. Dillard invokes the places that have helped to inspire her craft: the ``cinderblock cell over a parking lot'' where she completed Pilgrim ; the freezing cabin on Puget Sound where she chopped firewood every day before tackling her current work-in-progress, literary criticism. She recalls the day her typewriter erupted in a shower of fire and soot, and an epic ride with a fearless stunt pilot who conducted himself with reckless imagination and superb craft, like ``any fine artist.'' Self-aware but never self-absorbed, these luminous meditations examine an extraordinary writing life. QPBC alternate; Writer's Digest Book Club alternate. (Sept.)