Annie Dillard, who is 28 years old, describes herself as "no scientist" but merely "a wanderer with a background in theology and a penchant for quirky facts." Having grown up in Pittsburgh, she studied theology at Hollins College in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, the area from and about which she writes today. Drawn from her endless naturalist's notebooks, the "quirky facts" are soon to be released as Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, the Book-of-the-Month Club selection for April. In it, her fascination ranges from the 228 muscles in the head of a caterpillar to the poetically beautiful migration of monarch butterflies. Already Dillard is being compared with the great naturalists of American tradition. Like Emerson and Thoreau, her response to the intricate phenomena of nature amounts to that of a deeply religious witness.
Shelley Duvall may not have the looks that make eyes pop at Hollywood and Vine, but her own Orphan Annie-style peepers, shining with the satisfaction that comes of overnight triumph, make up for that. The star of Robert Altman's Thieves Like Us—a spare, beautifully realized depiction of hick bank robbers in the Depression—Shelley got her first break four years ago at age 20 when she stumbled onto an Altman location in her native Houston, trying to hustle some of her husband's sketches. Altman cast her on the spot, signed her to a contract and promised her the role in Thieves. Shelley waited two years before filming began and then worked for the union minimum of $527 per week. "The role was the wage," she says philosophically. Like most teenagers of the 1960s, Shelley lived through the drug culture—"all it did was make me sleepy"—and now calls herself "a true Christian." She doesn't want to be put down as a Jesus freak, however, "because I believe in many things—including Bob Altman."
Bruce Springsteen's curse as an artist has been his coronation by the music press as "the next Bob Dylan." Backed by a raffish fivesome of rockers from the slums of Asbury Park, N.J., 24-year-old Springsteen's vaguely surreal lyricism and free-form phrasing does invite the comparison. The scruffy-cheeked profile adorning the album jacket of his latest, The Wild, the Wonderful and the E-Street Shuffle, positively exploits it. But beyond that, the two are as dissimilar as the boardwalk saturnalia of the Jersey shore Bruce sings about and Dylan's opaque mindscapes. Foremost among a new wave of east-coast rock poets, the rising star from Asbury Park may just be "the first Bruce Springsteen."