Miscellany — From the March 2016 issue

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The life of a woman of letters

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Reading fan mail doesn’t swell your head, though it often startles by extremes: “You are my friend, Annie Dillard, you are my true fucking friend.” Of course you never hear from the many who didn’t like what you wrote, unless their teacher makes them write you: “You have a great talent for focusing on detail, including the most tedious.”

A historian ended his note, “I am sorry to invade your privacy. But you have invaded mine.” Another letter concluded, “This is not a form letter. The only other person I have contacted for this thesis is Milton Berle.”

Would I “guest star” on a Minnesota cable-TV show called Wishin’-n-Fishin’? The producer would pay for “all transportation throughout Minnesota,” as well as lodging and food, “even bait.”

“Envelope #1562,” by Andrew Bush. Courtesy the artist

“Envelope #1562,” by Andrew Bush. Courtesy the artist

“What’s your favorite word? Mine is usually ‘margin.’ ” A U.S. district judge in Connecticut wrote from his chambers to tell me the name of a good restaurant in Santa Monica. A man in Taiwan finished my pioneer novel, The Living: “I actually said aloud, ‘Thank you,’ startling my wife in bed beside me.”

A reader sent me a check for a hundred dollars. A woman hand-stitched me a beautiful quilt. A man concluded his letter, “I wish you luck, and above that, I wish you timing.”

A professor of philosophy in California sent me three photographs of “the world’s largest hair ball,” found in the belly of a dairy cow. A literary critic commented on a passage I wrote about the “heave shoulder” in Leviticus: “Dillard is attracted to the verb.” True.

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’s The Abundance, essays old and new, will be published this month by Ecco.

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Readings From the June 2002 issue

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