An Introduction to "Spaces for Sanctuary"

Intrigued by the way Annie Dillard composed Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, I attempted to treat the open space created by the immense amount of agriculture surrounding my hometown in a similar manner. Dillard's tendency to show both the beautiful and terrifying sides of a scene were partial inspiration for this piece. Although I did not follow her use of extreme detail, I included images and commentary that seemed to fit the idea of one of Dillard's possible single-line chapter titles: Space. This piece is not intended to entirely stand alone, as I imagined it as being just a chapter or section of a larger piece like Dillard's.

Since I have a habit of getting lost in describing the visual images of a scene, I took a note from Tom Wolfe by making commentary on my surroundings that were slightly incomplete or overly selective. I tried to focus on the important images in each scene while slipping in and out of the narrator's voice and current consciousness.

Tom Wolfe, along with Annie Dillard and Sara Suleri's techniques of using grotesques also crept into my piece, taking the place of other scenes that I originally planned on including. I welcomed them. I used anecdotes beside the grotesques in order to give the piece depth and perspective into the way open space and the feeling of freedom it gives can be both protective and dangerous. Discussions of death, both of people and plants crop up throughout the piece, which I felt questioned the serene nature and appearance of the fields I grew up in.

By opening and closing the chapter with scenes of the fields and their effects on my behavior, I hoped to emulate Joan Didion's ability to place her self directly in the scene and establish her legitimacy as a narrator. I also dispersed this technique throughout the piece in a similar attempt.

In its entirety, I thought of this chapter as a discussion of the effects of space in my life and in the lives of those close, and not so close to me. The overall effect is more that of Suleri's Meatless Days than any other author that was read in the course, as the piece poses as a section of an autobiography. It is the spacious section of a Nebraska native's autobiography, from a narrator that remains both slightly nostalgic and equally discouraged by my responses to the wide-open spaces produced by corporate farming, the protection needed for and sought from such empty places.

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20 December 2007