"I had a head for religious ideas. They made other ideas seem mean." (An American Childhood)
Amen and amen. I fell in love with Annie Dillard in 1984, when I was working in a tiny parish smack dab on the Black Swamp flats in the no man's land south of Toledo.
The writer of this superb essay worries, at the end, whether the new anthology of Dillard's essays marks a return to the sudsy chatter-zone called "American thought," or -- I think more likely -- a valediction.
And why, you might ask? Because, as Deresiewicz points out, Dillard always comes back to one point. Everywhere, everything, every moment, every particle evinces beauty and truth -- and here she is more Orthodox than a lot of Orthodox thinkers, frankly -- but she stops at where she needs to go.
Which is the universal resurrection -- and the truth of it insinuates a tension that you feel in her words, from the time she spent growing up in Pittsburgh, in all the glorious luminous "like burnished brass" episodes of a 28-year-old woman wandering about Tinker Creek ... and to the very present, one hopes.
That tension is an anticipation that is agnostically denied, but so poignantly hoped for, if not it explicit reference, then at least in deferral.