Tag Archives: Marilynne Robinson

America This is Quite Serious: “Fear” by Marilynne Robinson

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The massacre of 49 people in Orlando this weekend has, once again, raised enormous questions about the current state of American life.

Photograph by Paolo Pellegrin.

This incident, more than most others perhaps, stirs discussion. Not just because it is an election year, but also because of the many existing debates into which it painfully intrudes. Rather than the usual exasperations about the great need or the totaly futility of gun control, we are also debating the shooter’s supposed faith and affiliations with ISIS; his attack on the LGBT community when he himself might have also been gay; and how we should react in our politics, our policy, or for our own protection.

Almost all of these come back to one thing: Fear. The shooter’s, and our own.

In 2015, Marilynne Robinson wrote about this fear. As usual, she speaks from the perspective of a Christian. But — also as usual — you don’t need to share her faith to make sense of what she believes. She also speaks as an American, someone who loves her country and is a student of our long and complex history.

I have read this article at least five times since it was first published. Sadly, I often have reason to pull it up after hearing about another senseless mass murder with a firearm. I am sorry to say that I found it useful again this week.

America, this is quite serious, which is why “Fear” by Marilynne Robinson is worth a read.

Read more from our election year series “America This is Quite Serious.”

-Michael Moats

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A Super Tuesday Reading List

The presidential primary season, when we pick the candidates who will compete for our nation’s highest office, is inevitably among the dumbest times in our history. And while we’re not historians, it’s a safe bet that 2016 is among the dumbest we have seen. Today is Super Tuesday, when multiple states cast their votes in this spectacle of our shame, so to smarten up the place a bit, we decided to recommend a few books to the supporters of the various candidates.  We want everyone to have an opportunity to tune out the [unintelligible yelling] and enjoy some good reading.

Hillary Clinton

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President Obama: Marilynne Robinson Fanboy

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This week the New York Review of Books published the first of a two-part conversation between President Barack Obama and Pulitzer Prize winning author Marilynne Robinson, in which Obama completely fanboys out on the author.

And so we had this idea that why don’t I just have a conversation with somebody I really like and see how it turns out. And you were first in the queue, because—

Marilynne Robinson: Thank you very much.

The President: Well, as you know—I’ve told you this—I love your books. Some listeners may not have read your work before, which is good, because hopefully they’ll go out and buy your books after this conversation.

In the discussion, which took place in Iowa in September, Obama talks literature and Robinson talks politics and they both talk faith and the whole thing is very cool. It makes you wish the primary debates would pose the question of which author the 2016 candidates would most want to sit down with and fawn over.

Read the full conversation here.

Robinson has a new book due out this month, which you can read more about here.

 

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The Top Ten Books [I had Time to Read] This Year

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Foreground: Baby. Background: Books.

I became a parent in the Spring of 2014. Which is a wonderful thing, but it means that I spent my severely reduced reading time with books like The Happiest Baby on the Block Guide to Great Sleep (useful, but a pretty excruciating read); Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads (useful, and an enjoyable read); and The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree (still a classic).

I  did manage to pull off one half-assed review about a book I hadn’t finished reading, but for the most part my 2014 was spent dreaming of all the cool looking books I had no time to enjoy. Needless to say, this has left me woefully underqualified to make any kinds of judgments, even subjective ones, about the Best Books of the last 12 months.

And yet, I remain undeterred — what is the end of a year without a list of things? And while I may not have a top 10, I’m sure I can come up with something that fits our habit of  doing odd and unorthodox year-end lists.

So here is my list of Top Ten Books [I had Time to Read] This YearContinue reading

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Authors Note

If you haven’t already dropped all your cash on a Black Friday or CyberMonday gift, today is your chance to really spend some money, and ostensibly support a good cause.  Christie’s — the auction house where bidding typically starts about where your student loans are right now — is teaming up with the PEN American Center for “First Edition/Second Thoughts,” a charity auction of first editions that have been recently re-read and annotated by their authors.

Junot Diaz, Robert Caro, Marilynne Robinson, Philip Roth, Lydia Davis and 70 other authors and artists have looked back at their old works and added hand-written comments in the margins and elsewhere. Don DeLillo’s contribution, a 1997 edition of Underworld, features “four hundred pages of DeLillo’s handwritten notes, providing anecdotes, playful commentary, and his recollections of writing the book,” according to the New Yorker. “I found it interesting to become curious about something that I myself had written,” said DeLillo to the magazine, which also noted that the author communicates via fax.

The concept really is a cool one, and is among the few instances in which getting a “signed first edition” actually adds something to your reading. Here’s hoping there will be an opportunity in the future to read the annotations without having to bid the kind of money that would give any reasonable person, well, second thoughts*.

*Sorry.

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WHAT TO READ: Marilynne Robinson Says Great Things

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Marilynne Robinson is one of the few voices of true wisdom around today. She recently shared some thoughts on Christian fear, modern life and more with Religion News Service. You can read the full interview at Huffington Post, but here are some highlights…

On same-sex relationships:

There has never been a period in world history where same-sex relationships were more routine and normal than in Hellenistic culture at the time of Christ. Does Jesus ever mention the issue?  …if you choose to value one or two verses in Leviticus over the enormous, passionate calls for social justice that you find right through the Old Testament, that’s primitive.”

On “religious controversies”:

I wish I could go to the Supreme Court every time I saw somebody trying to cut food stamps, or pre-K, or any of these other things. These people that are so attentive to babies that don’t exist yet, and so negligent of babies that need help. It’s part of the narrowing of the culture, so that only certain things are considered to be religious controversies. It’s a religious controversy, to me, that we would think of cutting back on help for the poor.”

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