Category: Nonfiction

#BookBeginnings Encounters with Chinese Writers by Annie Dillard


I don’t usually share the nonfiction I read, but this week I’m making an exception with  Encounters with Chinese Writers by Annie Dillard for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!



Encounters with Chinese Writers* by Annie Dillard

(*Amazon Affiliate link)


In the spring of 1982, Pulitzer-prize winning author Annie Dillard traveled to China with six scholars and writers in an exchange program. Soon afterwards, a group of Chinese writers came to visit the U.S. The book is a collection of stories about their interactions, both humorous and insightful.

First Sentence:

We are being feted at a banquet in Beijing, in one of the restaurant’s many private banquet rooms. The room is drab and charmless; the food is wonderful.


I like how she chose to use the present tense to make the scene more immediate, even though the event was from the past.

I’m also always impressed by someone who is confident enough about grammar to use a semi-colon properly.  😉


The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The premise is simple. Turn to page 56 in the book and pick a quote.

Although we’re not really supposed to include context, it helps to know the group has just been asked which American works should the Chinese translate as prime examples of our literature.

And what, pray tell can we answer? Which writers, which works? I like Updike: Pigeon Feathers, Rabbit is Rich. A Toyota dealer and his wife make love on a bed of gold coins. A major American novel, out of the question. I like Marilyn Robinson, Housekeeping. A young girl in Idaho gives in to sloth. What would they make of Pynchon’s V? The room in which a Chinese reader lives may, or may not, have a single twenty-five-watt bulb. China has little paper, for printing books or anything else. I think of those trees in afforestation plots by the river, by the tracks, those trees one man or woman plants by hand, pats a cone of mud around, digs a ditch beside, waters…they’re virtual houseplants, these trees; they’re pets. How many trees should they fell to print what and why?

Although this was from 1982, it is still a question. What books would you translate? What books would you take with you to a desert island? I think one or two of Annie Dillard’s might make the cut.

What do you think? Have you read anything by Annie Dillard?

A History of Baitcasting in America

Although not my usual fare, today I’m featuring A History of Baitcasting in America by Emmett J. Babler.

A History of Baitcasting in America* by Emmett J. Babler

(*Amazon Affiliate Link)

For full disclosure, Emmett is an acquaintance, and because I’ve heard about this book from almost the time of its inception, I’ve been curious to see how it turned out. I should also disclose that I’m not a fishing expert.

What is Baitcasting?

Baitcasting is one of the five types of angling. The others are still fishing, fly fishing, spinning, and spincasting. The key aspect of baitcasting is a specific kind of reel that must be controlled when the line is released. If not properly controlled, the line can loop and tangle, which experts call “backlash.” Its main advantage is that is it useful for heavier lures and heavier fish, although it can also be better under certain fishing conditions than other methods.

History of Baitcasting

The book starts with some background about the history of fishing — or more properly, angling — in Britain and then in the colonies. For example, the author reveals that George Washington enjoyed angling. In the early 1800s, baitcasting made its debut in Kentucky as a way to improve bass fishing.  From there, it spread throughout the country.

Emmett documents the changes/advancements to the equipment and techniques up to modern day, as well as the people who made them happen. He includes information about developments in fishing line, rods, and lures, too. Anglers used silk line prior to the discovery of Dacron. It seems like silk would be flimsy, but it was braided in a special way. It did deteriorate if left wet, which would possibly be an advantage. If you’ve ever walked along the shoreline of a popular fishing spot, you know what I mean.

I appreciate that Emmett has included information on the status of the fish populations over time, as well. It was surprising how early in our history the fish numbers began to decline. As more and more people started angling, over-fishing became an issue. Environmental factors also caused fish numbers to decline in many areas. Conservation soon became necessary, with stricter rules or codes to protect the fish.

This is a complete and well-researched book. The back matter includes “Works Cited,” “A Tribute to Stanley Fagerstrom,” and an Index.

Overall, A History of Baitcasting in America is engaging and informative. Anglers will find it particularly useful, but anyone interested in history may enjoy it, too.

If you’d like to learn more or contact Emmett J. Babler, be sure to visit his website.

pond-History of Baitcasting




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