Musings and Amusings

Did any of you watch that 50’s-60’s show called ‘What’s My Line?’ where four people come on stage and say something like, “I’m Annie, and I’m an author”?

Only one of them was really an author named Annie but they all answered author-ish questions from a panel of celebrities (Dorothy Kilgallen, Arlene Francis, Bennett Cerf) who would then guess which contestant was the real Annie.

Finally the host, John Charles Daly, would say, “Will the real Annie please stand up?” and the audience would gasp at how cleverly the contestants fooled the panel.

That’s how I felt back in January when Elizabeth wrote about reading Anne LaMott’s book Small Victories.

The gist of our comments was:

Me: “I’m so glad you are enjoying Annie Dillard …

 Elizabeth: “Who is Annie Dillard?”


I’d done it again. Been flummoxed by the Annies.

Mixed up Annie Dillard,  Annie Proulx  and Anne LaMott – authors I couldn’t keep straight; couldn’t remember whether I’d read; couldn’t remember who wrote essays, short stories, novels or non-fiction narratives; or who was called Annie, Anne, Ann or …

Chagrined,  I committed to reading something written by each; researching a little about each; and figuring out a way to keep them straight.

The Annie Project has finally been launched.


Stand Up Desk and Annie Map

You’ll understand my ‘keeping them straight’ challenge because in the ensuing five months since Elizabeth’s post, I’ve convoluted my own memory to thinking she wrote about Annie Dillard and I commented about Annie Proulx.

Reading and research? That I can do.


Remembering who wrote what and who is who? In the words of our infamous Slovenian bike guide, Damien, “I’ll do my best.”

I know the most about Annie Proulx because I’ve actually read her short story compilation, Bad Dirt, Wyoming Stories 2. Proulx writes gritty, sometimes humorous stories about ranchers, cowhands, homesteaders and the circumstances they face living in the American West. Like Wallace Stegner, she gives me a profound sense of place.

I’ve tried to read Proulx’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Shipping News twice and couldn’t find a connection. Thus I chose to read another of her compelling short story compilations, Fine Just the Way It Is, Wyoming Stories 3.

What do I know about Annie Dillard? I know I like her name.

Say it out loud.

“Annie Dillard.”

Cadence  … lovely drawn-out vowels … solid consonants.

And dill reminds me of Dad and Michigan – dill growing wild mixed with a multitude of other unruly plants in swampy areas; resembling Queen Anne’s Lace, but with the unmistakable scent assuring it is safe to snap a piece of its frilly bloom or harvest a couple of autumn seeds for a little chew.

The other thing I know about Annie Dillard is I think I’ve read her and am shocked repeatedly to find I haven’t. I thought about reading her Roanoke Valley, VA-based narrative, Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek, (and might eventually), but – currently steeped in my ‘sense of place’ – I wandered from the description of Dillard’s book to a link for Edward Abbey’s 1968 masterpiece Desert Solitaire about his summer working in Arches National Park, located just across Colorado’s western border in Utah.

Sometimes that cyber-linky-wanderlust gets the best of me, and now I’m as eager to read Abbey’s treatise as I am to cozy up to the Annies.

Along with Abbey’s Desert Solitaire, I settled on two of Dillard’s many collections of essays, Teaching a Stone to Talk and The Writing Life. I hope I like what she has to say and how she says it as much as I like her name!

To explore Anne LaMott’s work, I chose Small Victories; Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace. (I can’t swear to it, but I THINK this is the book Elizabeth mentioned that started me down this twisted path of Annie-awe.) The big question for this book is will Anne refer to herself affectionately as Annie, which will surely mess with my head.

In a fit of cavalier ‘what the hell, why swim when I can sink?’ used-book-buying-nirvana, I also picked up two of Alice Munro’s short story collections.  A name like Alice could easily be confused for Annie (at least by me) and Alice Munro is every bit as respected for her works as the other A’s.  I need to find out what Alice is all about.

And speaking of ‘signs’, I am currently reading God Never Blinks; 50 Lessons for Life’s Little Detours by Regina Brett. Coming upon Lesson #18 ‘A Writer Is Someone Who Writes, If You Want to Be a Writer, Write’, lo and behold it is about Anne LaMott and her famous quote, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

Surely my Annie project is meant to be. I will be taking it book by book; perhaps writing a post or two during my explorations.

Come along if you’re so inclined!

(Please, no cruel well-meaning suggestions to add Ann Patchett, Anne Tyler, Anna Quindlen or Alice Walker to my project …)

We Survived the Chocolate Fountain

We Survived the Chocolate Fountain



Comments on: "Will the Real Annie Please Stand Up?" (40)

  1. Enjoyed this. I have a terrible time with names – live and in person or with authors. Love Proulx, though. The Shipping News I did enjoy, possibly because it is setting in Canada. It is such a departure from her other works, in terms of setting.

    How is the stand up desk working out for you? Is it a custom design?

    • Hi Maggie, I am going to try Shipping News one more time, and I do think the setting has a lot to do with the way we do/don’t ease into books. If I look at some photos and read a little about the area it might help me ‘receive’ her words.

    • Oh – the desk – my kitchen table is counter height. My laptop is sitting on a box of Swiffer wet wipes on top of the table 😀. Good height for typin with arms in correct position and I can see the screen and look out the window. Win-Win-Win.

  2. Oooh! A reading-type post! *cracks knuckles*
    I have read probably 5 or 6 books written by Annie Proulx and liked all of them I can think of. I have read one Anne LaMott book, maybe ten years ago, liked it, tried something else of hers, and meh, lost interest. I don’t know Annie Dillard. I’ll look into her.
    Alice Munro is a fave of mine, and I’m hoping you picked up Too Much Happiness 🙂 — Sounds funny, I hope you have too much happiness!

    I love, love, love Alice Walker and Alice Adams, Anne Tyler and Anna Quindlen. Now that I consider all the A names of successful women writers, I can’t imagine why my parents gave me such a stupid, stupid J name, lol!

    • Who is Alice Adams ???? *cracks knuckles back at ya *.

      I KNOW !!! I have a J name and I have never liked it !!!

      My friend’s mother used to admonish her, ” Don’t get too happy. Something might happen.” Is it any wonder we spend adult lives escaping childhood baggage ??

      I have two other Alice books but if I like her I’ll gladly grab summa that Too Happy juice.

      Thanks for your enthusiasm. Will keep you posted on my progress 💥

  3. I must admit I’ve not read any of these Annes. But thanks to you, I can now better keep them straight. 🙂

    • I’m always amazed when I have a highly successful author in mind, thinking everyone but me has read them, then find out that’s not the case. It causes me once again to marvel not only at the eclectic selection of quality reads we can choose from (thank you authors, librairies and Free Speech) , but the infinite interests of readers themselves.

      It’s one reason I enjoy posts from my blogging buddies about what they read. I might not have enough interest to select that author but it always sheds light on our vast reading universe.

  4. The only Annie in your list who sounded familiar to me was Annie Dillard but I couldn’t recall a thing she had written. Isn’t it odd how a writer’s name can become more familiar than their work?

  5. Beautiful pic. Thanks for the shout out. Your forays sound fascinating. I’ll have to read some of them as I am currently bookless (such a foreign and unfriendly place to be!) I like the bike guide quote. Hilarious.


  6. I like this post. I am awful with names. When people leave comments on my or when I want to comment on someone’s blog, I always feel like “I should know this person’s name” especially when they know mine. So, I usually scroll to the top and hope they have something like an “About Sammy D.” page (I remember your name these days Sammy). I get authors confused too.

    I was going to comment that I like “Dillard” as a name because a family by that name used to own (founded) my favorite hot dog stand. But, that was the “Dillon” family so… I should go now.

    • Thanks Dan. In person I need to READ the name on a name tag. Otherwise it’s gone in a flash ( and the whole association trick doesn’t work nor does repeating the name over the introductory handshake because I’ve already forgotten it).

      For blogging, I have my Blogger Reference notebook where I make note of the blogger’s name. I know most of my commenters well enough by now but occasionally I have to refer it or resort to your method.

      As for the Annies, after I’ve read them I’ll either like them and keep them straight or I won’t. It’s not as if they’re going to know or care 😊

  7. Hahaha. I look forward to hearing more of your reading quest!

  8. Trying very hard not too shout that you must read ms Walker…lol. Great post and I’m tempted to give Annie Proux another go now! 🙂

  9. I haven’t read these Annies. I see I need to add some more books to my TBR list. I probably won’t be able to keep them straight, either.

  10. It always fascinates me what hooks people into certain books. I really enjoyed The Shipping News, and I like Ann Tyler’s work too. So much good lit out there! I think I’ll retire to the bath with my book 🙂 (I’ve been reading Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts for several weeks and am up to p 585 of 933- guilty confession- I skipped about 15 pages of prison violence I just couldn’t bare to read! It’s a terrific story, beautifully written)

    • You Rascal !!!! Recommending a 950+ page book when I’ve got 10 or so flapping their impatient book covers at me right now 😅 It’ll take time on ALL of Jude’s benches before I make it through that tome! But if course I’m linking right to a book site to see what it’s about Grrrrrrrrrr

      • Keep polishing those reading specs 🙂

      • Jo – i looked at your novel and it looks like a rich read and probably a juicy movie some day. Have you been to India? I only know it from the movies …

      • No, I haven’t Sammy. I would love to see some of the astounding architecture but all those people and sticky heat… not sure I would cope (nor can I afford it 😦 ) It’s an outstanding novel, though not my usual sort of read. Based on a true story apparently… glad it’s not mine! Take care, Sammy, and thanks for your time 🙂

  11. Please try The Sipping News again! It took me several attempts to get into it but, once I did, I was hooked! I just finished Anna Quindlen’s Blessings and enjoyed it, but I won’t be cruel and recommend it. I’m always looking for good books and your post has giving me several to look for. A Blogging Reference notebook, what a terrific idea that I’m stealing.

    • I WILL try it again! I’ve read enough Anna Q that I didn’t bat an eye at your attempt to put me over the edge 😊

      My Blogger Notebook is a great help; I start with URL (since WordPress occasionally deletes a blog I follow) and blogger’s name. I add stuff like Hub & kids names if blogger uses them; where they live; stuff like that. It really does help with my own shortterm memory lapses and when bloggers disappear for awhile and return. It’s like my diary of penpals 😋. I think you will like using yours, too.

  12. Ayn Rand? Kidding … I’m familiar with the various Anne’s … but most of all I LOVE the photo of surviving the chocolate fountain Sammy D!

    Looking forward to the Anne posts … 🙂

  13. I connected with Annie Proulx when I lived in Wyoming. Her stories are surprising sometimes. I have tried Annie Dillard several times, can’t connect.

    • Thanks, Jane, for your thoughts. I’ve finished Anne LaMott and am almist through my 2 Annie Dillard books. Will write about it soon!

  14. That made me chuckle. I once confused Thomas Harris (he who wrote the Hannibal Lecter books) with Robert Harris (who has written books set in the Roman Empire). Very different writers!!

    For Annie Dillard, there are some fantastic articles on her and her books over at Brain Pickings. I don’t know if you know the website but it is chock-a-block full of beautifully written essays about books, writers, philosophers, artists… and more. Dangerous for us cyberwanderlusters — I’ve wasted days (weeks/months if you were to aggregate it all) clicking from one article to another. Here are the ones about Annie Dillard:

    I have yet to read her too, but I really want to. It sounds like she has some wonderful books and wonderful wisdoms to share.

    Ann Lamott is great, I’ve only read Bird by Bird but Small Victory sounds like it would be an equally good book. Did you enjoy it?

    • Thanks for the brain pickings link. I have used (got lost in) that site 😎. Will let ya know about the Annie’s soon !!

  15. I can see why you need a map to keep the Annes straight! Although I saw a movie version of The Shipping News–it was offbeat, to say the least–I’ve not read any of the three Annies on your list. My daughter had to read an Annie Dillard book (Pilgrim at T. Creek, I think) for her AP comp class, and I mentally made a note to put it on my list. Anne Lamott’s name crops up a lot in various WP blogs, so I’ve been curious about her books, too. My suspicion is that neither Dillard nor Lamott will be light enough for my before-bedtime reading, though. Lately, I’ve thought about establishing a during-the-day reading time. . . .

    • Good idea, Sandi. We definitely need book lists for different reading times, energies and focus. I need to get a post written of my progress getting to know ‘the Annies’. It’s definitely not what I expected !!

  16. I liked the show What’s My Line? I like some Annie who are people I know, authors and will always love “Annie Song” by John Denver.
    I have read a book by several of the Annie’s you mentioned like Anne Quindlen, Anne Lamott and liked but took a long time to read The Shipping News by Anne Proulx. I really like Anne Tyler and Ann Patchett. You are funny in this post and I am easily confused about books and suthors. I tend on babbling, “I like the one with a mystical woman. . .” Or “I like the book about thevegyptologist couple. . .” That is about all I can do since I read books and pass them on/forward. Friends smile and nod their heads but book lovers know the characters name or titles. So nice to know, while I am lost, you may be there with me 🙂

  17. […] I struggled with how – or even whether  – to review what I’ve read so far from my Annie Project. […]

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