Wednesday, July 17, 2019


As I may have mentioned before, I sometimes read more than one book at a time. On second thought, who remembers what I may have mentioned before on my blog? Since I post seldom and irregularly now, I probably have very few readers. Along with books, I read magazines and newspapers. My present reading includes four books, one of which is a book of essays by Marilynne Robinson, a favorite novelist of mine. Robinson writes beautifully, but her writing is dense with meaning and demands attention. Every word counts, so don't expect a quick read.

I've read and enjoyed all four of her novels, a couple more than once. The titles are Housekeeping, Gilead, Home, and Lila. I fell in love with the character Jack in Home. He's flawed and causes hurt to people who love him, but I sense an innate goodness and sweetness in Jack that is, sadly, all too often overcome by the flaws in his character.

My friend Susan sent me two collections of Robinson's essays, most of which originated as lectures at universities. The titles are The Givenness of Things and What Are We Doing Here? Both collections are excellent. The latter collection includes an essay on Barack Obama and his time in office that was first published in The Nation.

The essay on Obama is brilliant and insightful and holds a place as the best writing on the former president that I have read to date. Below is an excerpt from the essay on Obama. You can read the entire essay at the link above.
I have had a singular relationship with President Obama. I cannot imagine a greater honor than his having called me his friend, but if I call our relationship more than meaningful acquaintance, I might suggest a degree of personal familiarity that I cannot claim. We have had conversations. His expressed interest in my work has had a marked effect on my career, very marked in Europe because he is held in such high regard there. The association of his name with mine abroad has let me see him as he is seen where the miasmas of polemic do not obscure him: as a gracious, good, and brilliant man. There, he is a vindication of American democracy, while here, every means has been tried to deny the public the consequences of having chosen him.


  1. That's one of the book of essays I haven't gotten round to yet. I love her novels, I love her essays even more. I especially love her great and suppressed long essay, Mother Country. She is the greatest writer in the English language during my lifetime, or at least of the ones I've read.

    1. I had not thought of Robinson in terms of the greatest writer, but now that you mention it, and I've thought about it, I agree.

      Robinson's Jack in Home is a type of flawed saint like Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisited.

  2. I stopped reading novels a while ago, after I burned out on words when I was in grad school studying literature. When I was reading, reading, reading I fell in love with Marilynne Robinson's work and it's good to be reminded. I may read her essays.

    1. Robinson is a believer, and I no longer am, so I don't always agree with her. Still, she writes/lectures beautifully and is always worth reading.

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