American Writers, Supplement VI by Jay Parini

By Jay Parini

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As a girl, she was tomboyish, hanging out with boys to play baseball and to throw snowballs at cars passing through the neighborhood. Her difficult, rebellious high school years led her parents to send her to Hollins College in Virginia, where she flourished, being named to Phi Beta Kappa in her junior year. According to Nancy C. Parrish, Hollins provided an environment that was at once competitive and collaborative, enabling Dillard's writing to flourish and initiating a community of women writers that would be important throughout her life.

One of Dillard's projects in Living by Fiction is to "cry foul" the aims of some contemporary modernist fiction to "[recreate] . . " Believing in the responsibility of art to generate fire as well as smoke—"any art, including an art of surface, must do more than dazzle"—she calls for a more serious contemporary criticism. " Finally, whether she composes fiction or nonfiction, Dillard affirms the need for writing to provide interpretations of the world rather than merely to reflect the self-absorbed playfulness of the writer.

When the book was being completed, Dillard's marriage to Richard Dillard was in the process of breaking up, and the couple divorced in 1975. Always a private person, Dillard has not discussed the reasons for this split, but it is clear that it caused her considerable pain. To absent herself from the publicity surrounding her ANNIE DILLARD / 23 literary success, and perhaps also to help subdue the loss in her personal life, she moved to Washington State in 1975, taking up a position at Western Washington University in Bellingham, living in a small cabin on an island in Puget Sound, and writing Holy the Firm (1977).

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