American Writers, Supplement VI by Jay Parini

By Jay Parini

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Bringing together "life and death," Austin affirms the diversity and potential of life in the most hellish conditions. Austin's work, like that of Dillard, operates on both a literal and metaphorical level, urging the seeker to take the broad picture and, implicitly, to understand divinity as part of an enormous pattern that can occasionally be perceived in its tiny details. Like Austin, one of Dillard's regular narrative strategies is to focus readers' attention on the minute—on insects, or even on the microscopic life evident in a drop of pond water.

Finally, this scene intimates Dillard's wry and athletic humor; she not only records the violence in life but undercuts the horror of her descriptions—here, with Einstein's humorous observation that "God is subtle . . " We see her effort, as in much American autobiographical narrative, to bring her—and the reader's—consciousness back to a balanced state. Autobiographical narratives invite a consideration of their complex audiences. " Autobiographies can range from personal, private writing, intended to preserve for the writer an "earlier" sense of self, to clearly public self-presentation.

There was neither baseball nor football, so the boys and I threw snowballs at passing cars. " Although she is fascinated early on by the tanning rituals of her mother's contemporaries, it is not until adolescence that she experiences a sense of being embodied female, as she describes her experience at formal dances, feeling the warmth of a boy's palm on her whitegloved hands. " "THE DREAMING MEMORY OF LAND": DILLARD AND AMERICAN NATURE WRITING Dillard's writing has most frequently been compared with that of Henry David Thoreau.

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