That was the last sane moment that I remember
August 10, 2017 3:41 PM   Subscribe

"Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him, or as flying in an airplane does to falling out of an airplane. Although the one experience precedes the other, it in no way prepares you for it." Annie Dillard's Classic Essay: 'Total Eclipse'
posted by stoneweaver (17 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
I loved this essay. I really love this essay! I remember defending it in a creative writing class because it fundamentally changed how I viewed "non-fiction". It was this huge shift for me from seeing writing as a thing that I consumed to understanding that it was a thing produced. That is, there is this lovely, hyperbolic culmination somewhere around "A thin ring of light marked its place. There was no sound. The eyes dried, the arteries drained, the lungs hushed. There was no world. We were the world’s dead people rotating and orbiting around and around, embedded in the planet’s crust, while the Earth rolled down." I mean, what the hell, its just an eclipse, but it is such great hyperbole that it said "Scamander, writing can be funny, sad, moving, serious and a joke all at the same time, you can do whatever you want". I'm struggling to express why this is such an amazing piece. Anyways, I totally had to argue in class because most of them thought it was stupid and "over the top" so I feel a proprietorial interest here.
posted by scamander at 3:54 PM on August 10 [8 favorites]

I can't go....just stop, please.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:15 PM on August 10 [4 favorites]

I didn't finish reading this. When does Bright Eyes turn around?
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 4:20 PM on August 10 [17 favorites]

Every now and then.
posted by deadwax at 4:32 PM on August 10 [34 favorites]

I can't go....just stop, please.

There's another one in seven years with everything from Austin to Montreal in its path, if that helps.
posted by Wobbuffet at 4:46 PM on August 10 [6 favorites]

Thanks Wobbuffet. I currently live within the path of totality for that one. You've given me both a reason to live and to stay put (I hope it's not cloudy)
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:52 PM on August 10 [5 favorites]

This essay is one of my all time favorites and I don't think it's about a total eclipse. If it were, I wouldn't cite it as often as I have in the last couple of decades.
posted by janey47 at 5:05 PM on August 10 [2 favorites]

This essay makes me want to read a bunch of Lovecraft late at night on the 20th.
posted by gurple at 5:33 PM on August 10 [4 favorites]

I read this essay, a few years ago. I googled when the next eclipse would be in the US and found out about this summer, at the time only a few years away! We booked tickets last summer. Hope there are no clouds!
posted by Buckt at 6:50 PM on August 10 [1 favorite]

"Traffic jam, traffic jam. Guarantee you a traffic jam." Don't :) Seriously.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 7:00 PM on August 10

Had never read this before today - but Annie Dillard is a genius. These sentences are like candy:

It was the West. All of us rugged individualists were wearing knit caps and blue nylon parkas.

It is especially different for those of us whose grasp of astronomy is so frail that, given a flashlight, a grapefruit, two oranges, and 15 years, we still could not figure out which way to set the clocks for daylight saving time

I was watching a faded color print of a movie filmed in the Middle Ages;

posted by Miko at 7:28 PM on August 10 [2 favorites]

There's another one in seven years with everything from Austin to Montreal in its path, if that helps.

The bottom tip of Illinois is in totality for both 2017 and 2024. X marks the spot.
posted by gurple at 9:21 PM on August 10 [1 favorite]

I saw that eclipse not far from where Dillard did, but I'd never read her essay.

Here's Virginia Woolf's account of a 1927 eclipse from her diaries.

There are similarities in tone and description and especially in emotional response, but I can't decide whether I think Dillard read Woolf's piece or not -- and I don't even know whether she could have read it, either, but it doesn't matter; Dillard's essay is absolutely wonderful either way.
posted by jamjam at 11:55 PM on August 10 [8 favorites]

Oh, Annie Dillard is excellent, and this essay is my favorite of hers. It's the one consolation I have for missing the total eclipse since I'd worry it couldn't possibly live up to her writing on the experience anyway.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:03 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]

Very timely as a few friends and I are planning an expedition to the Path Of Totality. The living room is full of camping supplies, some of which are odd.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 12:54 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]

My town is in the path of totality and because of the convenience of that, I haven't put much thought into the experience of seeing this happen. I intended to go to work that day, step outside for awhile to see the actual totality part of it, then go back to my desk. But this essay makes me think I might be underestimating the experience a bit and maybe I should make a better plan.

My kiddo is not quite 3 years old yet. It seems like a fool's errand to try to wrestle glasses on his face so I don't think it makes sense to take him out of daycare when the eclipse will happen right during his naptime anyway.
posted by aabbbiee at 2:11 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]

In the same way that I'll never be able to experience a cruise without thinking of David Foster Wallace, I will never experience an eclipse without thinking of Annie Dillard.
posted by merriment at 5:01 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]

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