Annie Dillard

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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.

Miscellany — From the March 2016 issue

Ex Post

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The life of a woman of letters

Fiction — From the November 2003 issue

The two of them

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Readings — From the June 2002 issue

This is the life

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Article — From the January 1998 issue

The wreck of time

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Taking our century’s measure

Readings — From the August 1995 issue

Signals at sea

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Fiction — From the August 1991 issue

A trip to the mountains

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No one would talk to me for this piece. Or rather, more than twenty women talked to me, sometimes for hours at a time, but only after I promised to leave out their names, and give them what I began to call deep anonymity. This was strange, because what they were saying did not always seem that extreme. Yet here in my living room, at coffee shops, in my inbox and on my voicemail, were otherwise outspoken female novelists, editors, writers, real estate agents, professors, and journalists of various ages so afraid of appearing politically insensitive that they wouldn’t put their names to their thoughts, and I couldn’t blame them. 

Of course, the prepublication frenzy of Twitter fantasy and fury about this essay, which exploded in early January, is Exhibit A for why nobody wants to speak openly. Before the piece was even finished, let alone published, people were calling me “pro-rape,” “human scum,” a “harridan,” a “monster out of Stephen King’s ‘IT,’?” a “ghoul,” a “bitch,” and a “garbage person”—all because of a rumor that I was planning to name the creator of the so-called Shitty Media Men list. The Twitter feminist Jessica Valenti called this prospect “profoundly shitty” and “incredibly dangerous” without having read a single word of my piece. Other tweets were more direct: “man if katie roiphe actually publishes that article she can consider her career over.” “Katie Roiphe can suck my dick.” With this level of thought policing, who in their right mind would try to say anything even mildly provocative or original? 

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Pushing the Limit·

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In the early Eighties, Andy King, the coach of the Seawolves, a swim club in Danville, California, instructed Debra Denithorne, aged twelve, to do doubles — to practice in the morning and the afternoon. King told Denithorne’s parents that he saw in her the potential to receive a college scholarship, and even to compete in the Olympics. Tall swimmers have an advantage in the water, and by the time Denithorne turned thirteen, she was five foot eight. She dropped soccer and a religious group to spend more time at the pool.

Illustration by Shonagh Rae
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After losing their savings in the stock market crash of 2008, seniors Barb and Chuck find seasonal employment at Amazon fulfillment centers.

Percentage of U.S. gun retailers who believe that “it is too easy for criminals to get guns in this country”:

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US president Donald Trump, who once said it “doesn’t matter” what journalists write about him if he has a “piece of ass” that is “young,” blamed the press coverage of the abuse allegations on the White House communications director, whom Trump has reportedly called a “piece of tail” and asked to steam a pair of pants he was wearing.

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Report — From the June 2013 issue

How to Make Your Own AR-15

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"Gun owners have long been the hypochondriacs of American politics. Over the past twenty years, the gun-rights movement has won just about every battle it has fought; states have passed at least a hundred laws loosening gun restrictions since President Obama took office. Yet the National Rifle Association has continued to insist that government confiscation of privately owned firearms is nigh. The NRA’s alarmism helped maintain an active membership, but the strategy was risky: sooner or later, gun guys might have realized that they’d been had. Then came the shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, followed swiftly by the nightmare the NRA had been promising for decades: a dedicated push at every level of government for new gun laws. The gun-rights movement was now that most insufferable of species: a hypochondriac taken suddenly, seriously ill."

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