Annie Dillard seeks to build a bridge between the two.

Annie Dillard is one contemporary author evangelicals should get to know. She is one of the few among the cultural intelligentsia who has a reasonably accurate concept of what an evangelical is. Fundamentalists that appear in her narratives are usually treated with understanding, sympathy, and warmth. Although she writes mainly for the non-Christian, the skeptic, the agnostic, she admits to seeing one of her tasks as “trying to mediate a bit between Christians and humanists—especially between evangelical Christians and my colleagues in academia and the arts who think a Christian is a madman with a white sheet and a gun.”

After a five-year hiatus in publishing Annie’s work, Harper & Row last year brought out not one but two fresh books. Teaching a Stone to Talk is a collection of writings; Living by Fiction is a highly original discussion of modern fiction. The two have virtually no overlap, and with them Dillard reaffirms her place in the first rank of living American writers. In 1974 she won the Pulitzer Prize for the best seller Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.

Selections from Teaching a Stone to Talk have appeared in magazines as disparate as Yale Literary Magazine and Self. Advanced college writing classes are already photocopying chapters, analyzing their constituent parts, and applying to Dillard’s prose the same rigorous criteria she applies to other authors in Living by Fiction. Those students will discover a masterful use of words, an uncanny sense of pacing, with witticisms and mordant apothegms tossed in for mental relief.

Teaching a Stone to Talk draws together 14 pieces of varying length, which the book-jacket copy calls “personal narratives.” Many of them, notably ...

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