Secondhand bookshop gem: Teaching a Stone to Talk

Photo courtesy of Jon Phillips

Day 11: The trouble with today’s prompt is that I get books anywhere and everywhere—from book festivals, library book sales, yard sales, secondhand bookstores, consignment shops, trade shows, big-box stores, and independent booksellers, as well as online, as gifts, and in the trash—which makes it difficult to recall each one’s origin. Fortunately, when I pulled Annie Dillard’s Teaching a Stone to Talk off the shelf, it was stamped inside with the name and address of the bookseller, Annie’s Book Stop in Freeport, Maine. Annie’s is a chain. I didn’t realize that until I looked it up.

Reading Annie Dillard is perfect pleasure; any of her books qualify as gems. Open one to a random page and start anywhere. You’ll be hooked. See for yourself. This is from Teaching a Stone to Talk:

Teaching a Stone to Talk, by Annie Dillard

I have a taste for solitude, and silence, and for what Plotinus called “the flight of the alone to the Alone.” I have a taste for solitude. Sir John Franklin had, apparently, a taste for backgammon. Is either of these appropriate to conditions?

You quit your house and country, quit your ship, and quit your companions in the tent, saying, “I am just going outside and may be some time.” The light on the far side of the blizzard lures you. You walk, and one day you enter the spread heart of silence, where lands dissolve and seas become vapor and ices sublime under unknown stars. This is the end of the Via Negativa, the lightless edge where the slopes of knowledge dwindle, and love for its own sake, lacking an object, begins.

Go to this book for the author’s breathtaking description of a total eclipse. Draw your meaning privately from her recorded observations. In every paragraph, she gives you just enough to set your thoughts spinning, jolt loose old memories, and grant them new emotional significance. I don’t know whether her achievement as a writer requires a disciplined mind or a completely free one, but I suspect the answer is both.

BookADay-The Borough Press

2 Replies to “Secondhand bookshop gem: Teaching a Stone to Talk

  1. Good! BTW, I enjoyed Brian Boyd’s ON THE ORIGIN OF STORIES a great deal. It gave me some new insights into why celebrated storytellers and stories are so rare.

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