I read The Maytrees by Annie Dillard last week. And for a while I was perplexed. To be honest, I didn’t really enjoy reading the book, even though I was quite aware that it was well written and well told. Beautiful imagery surges off of the page, and Dillard interlaces the philosophy of community, relationships, and love into the narrative.
After attempting multiple times to verbalize why I didn’t enjoy the novel, I realized that my taste in fiction differs too drastically from Dillard’s.
For example, I like heavy blankets and hot food. I like writing with weight and texture. Dillard’s writing is the opposite; it is light and cool. It has sparse wording and underplayed emotions, both of which are not my cup of tea. The Maytrees is more like iced tea, and frankly, I’m not a fan of iced tea.
For a while I felt guilty for disliking the book. But I feel better about it now that I have realized that it’s simply a matter of taste. I can appreciate it just fine from afar. It’s okay that I don’t enjoy every good book that comes my way. Many of my classmates enjoyed it, and I hope that you will enjoy it too.
Before you pick it up, I’ll warn you:
You have to be in a certain mood when you read it. It is a lifetime of memories. The prologue opens thus:
It began when Lou Bigelow and Toby Maytree first met. He was back home in Provincetown after the war. Maytree first saw her on a bicycle. A red scarf, white shirt, skin clean as an eggshell, wide eyes and mouth, shorts. She stopped and leaned on a leg to talk to someone on the street. She laughed, and her loveliness caught his breath.
When you muse on memories, you cannot hear a full dialogue and or envision a complete panorama. You remember specific images that form an impression. You remember scents and emotions. The Maytrees gives the same impression by detailing those fleeting images that pull Maytree into love with Lou. When you read this book, be ready to contemplate life and death, the tide’s ebb and flow.