The life of a woman of letters
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Annie Dillard was a contributing editor to Harper’s Magazine from 1973 to 1985, with a brief hiatus in 1982.
Dillard’s first contribution to Harper’s was sent to the editors as an unsolicited manuscript. “Monster in a Mason Jar: The lethal liturgy of the praying mantis” (August 1973) was the first of four excerpts from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974) to appear in the magazine. The book was published by Harper’s Magazine Press in 1974, when Dillard was twenty-nine, and won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in the same year. “Pilgrim is really a book of theology,” Dillard told an editor at the magazine in 1974. “It’s the result of one year’s walking around and thinking about what kind of god gave us this kind of world. I decided that it must have been a very carefree, exuberant one, saying ‘Here, have a tulip! Have a beetle! Have another beetle!’”
Dillard’s first book was the poetry collection Tickets for a Prayer Wheel (1974). Among her nonfiction works are Living by Fiction (1982); Teaching a Stone to Talk (1982); An American Childhood (1987), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and For the Time Being (1999), an excerpt of which appeared in the January 1988 issue of the magazine. Dillard also wrote two novels: The Living (1992), excerpts of which were published in the November 1978 and August 1991 issues, and The Maytrees (2007), which was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.
Dillard taught at Wesleyan University from 1979 to 2000. She serves on the usage panel of the American Heritage Dictionary, and paints.
The life of a woman of letters
Taking our century’s measure
Flor Arely Sánchez had been in bed with a fever and pains throughout her body for three days when a July thunderstorm broke over the mountainside. She got nervous when bolts of light flashed in the sky. Lightning strikes the San Julián region of western El Salvador several times a year, and her neighbors fear storms more than they fear the march of diseases — first dengue, then chikungunya, now Zika. Flor worried about a lot of things, since she was pregnant.
Late in the afternoon, when the pains had somewhat eased, Flor thought she might go to a dammed-up bit of the river near her house to bathe. She is thirty-five and has lived in the same place all her life, where wrinkled hills are planted with corn, beans, and fruit trees. She took a towel and soap and walked out into the rain. Halfway to the river, the pains returned and overcame her. The next thing Flor remembers, she was in a room she didn’t recognize, unable to move. As she soon discovered, she was in a hospital, her ankle cuffed to the bed, and she was being investigated for abortion.
Average duration of a Japanese prime minister’s tenure since August 1993, in months:
Brain shrinkage has no effect on cognition.
An Indianapolis fertility doctor was accused of using his own sperm to artificially inseminate patients, and a Delaware man pleaded guilty to fatally stabbing his former psychiatrist.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”
© 2015 Harper’s Magazine Foundation. October 2016 cover: Cover: Illustration by Jimmy Turrell. Engraving of a statue of Alexander Hamilton © Liszt Collection/Bridgeman Images; painting of Hamilton by John Trumbull courtesy the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division; Hamilton being performed at the Grammy Awards, 2016 © Theo Wargo/Getty Images