Marilynne Robinson

book by Marilynne Robinson

Marilynne Summers Robinson (born November 26, 1943) is an American novelist and essayist. During her writing career Robinson has received numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005, the 2012 National Humanities Medal, and the 2016 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction.

Marilynne Robinson in 2012

Quotes edit

  • I don’t really have an ideal reader in mind at all, whether one with or without faith. When I write it is to try to figure out something for my own purposes. It is self-indulgent really. It is much more the blank page that I write for, in some way. I have this feeling, should a problem present itself, that I should try to resolve it.
  • …People are complex — that’s the whole center of interest. I don’t make my characters complex. I have a feeling that I know a character, and one of the aspects of that is knowing that they are complex. I never have the feeling of putting a character together from a selection of qualities.

Housekeeping (1980) edit

  • To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know anything so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is foreshadowing -- the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one's hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again. Though we dream and hardly know it, longing, like an angel, fosters us, smooths our hair, and brings us wild strawberries.
  • This document explained my aunt Molly’s departure to my whole satisfaction. Even now I always imagine her leaning from the low side of some small boat, dropping her net through the spumy billows of the upper air. Her net would sweep the turning world unremarked as a wind in the grass, and when she began to pull it in, perhaps in a pell-mell ascension of formal gentlemen and thin pigs and old women and odd socks that would astonish this lower world, she would gather the net, so easily, until the very burden itself lay all in a heap just under the surface. One last pull of measureless power and ease would spill her catch into the boat, gasping and amazed, gleaming rainbows in the rarer light.
  • Such a net, such a harvesting, would put an end to all anomaly. If it swept the whole floor of heaven, it must, finally, sweep the black floor of Fingerbone, too. From there, we must imagine, would arise a great army of paleolithic and neolithic frequenters of the lake-berry gatherers and hunters and strayed children from those and all subsequent eons, down to the earliest present, to the faith-healing lady in the long, white robe who rowed a quarter of a mile out and tried to walk back in again just at sunrise, to the farmer who bet five dollars one spring that the ice was still strong enough for him to gallop his horse across. Add to them the swimmers, the boaters and canoers, and in such a crowd my mother would hardly seem remarkable. There would be a general reclaiming of fallen buttons and misplaced spectacles, of neighbors and kin, till time and error and accident were undone, and the world became comprehensible and whole. Sylvie said that in fact Molly had gone to work as a bookkeeper in a missionary hospital. It was perhaps only from watching gulls fly like sparks up the face of clouds that dragged rain the length of the lake that I imagined such an enterprise might succeed. Or it was from watching gnats sail out of the grass, or from watching some discarded leaf gleaming at the top of the wind. Ascension seemed at such times a natural law. If one added to it a law of completion--that everything must finally be made comprehensible--then some general rescue of the sort I imagined my aunt to have undertaken would be inevitable. For why do our thoughts turn to some gesture of a hand, the fall of a sleeve, some corner of a room on a particular anonymous afternoon, even when we are asleep, and even when we are so old that our thoughts have abandoned other business? What are all these fragments for, if not to be knit up finally?
  • Once, Lucille and I walked beside the train to the shore. There had been a freezing rain that glazed the snow with a crust of ice, and we found that, when the sun went down, the crust was thick enough for us to walk on. So we followed the train at a distance of twenty feet or so, falling now and then, because the glazed snow swelled and sank in dunes, and the tops of bushes and fence posts rose out of it in places where we did not expect them to be. But by crawling up, and sliding down, and steadying ourselves against the roofs of sheds and rabbit hutches, we managed to stay just abreast of the window of a young woman with a small head and a small hat and a brightly painted face. She wore pearl-gray gloves that reached almost to her elbows, and hooped bracelets that fell down her arms when she reached up to push a loose wisp of hair underneath her hat. The woman looked at the window very often, clearly absorbed by what she saw, which was not but merely seemed to be Lucille and me scrambling to stay beside her, too breathless to shout. When we came to the shore, where the land fell down and the bridge began to rise, we stopped and watched her window sail slowly away, along the abstract arc of the bridge.

Gilead (2004) edit

  • A man can know his father, or his son, and there might still be nothing between them but loyalty and love and mutual incomprehension.
  • I can imagine Jesus befriending my grandfather, too, frying up some breakfast for him, talking things over with him, and in fact the old man did report several experiences of just that kind.
  • Any human face is a claim on you, because you can't help but understand the singularity of it, the courage and loneliness of it.
  • I was trying to remember what birds did before there were telephone wires. It would have been much harder for them to roost in the sunlight, which is a thing they clearly enjoy doing.
  • It is one of the best traits of good people that they love where they pity. And this is truer of women than of men. So they get themselves drawn into situations that are harmful to them. I have seen this happen many, many times. I have always had trouble finding a way to caution against it. Since it is, in a word, Christlike.
  • He could knock me down the stairs and I would have worked out the theology for forgiving him before I reached the bottom. But if he harmed you in the slightest way, I'm afraid theology would fail me.
  • Every single one of us is a little civilization built on the ruins of any number of preceding civilizations, but with our own variant notions of what is beautiful and what is acceptable – which, I hasten to add, we generally do not satisfy and by which we struggle to live.
  • I meant to leave you a reasonably candid testament to my better self, and it seems to me now that what you must see here is just an old man struggling with the difficulty of understanding what it is he's struggling with.
  • It is worth living long enough to outlast whatever sense of grievance you may acquire. Another reason why you must be careful of your health.

Home (2008) edit

  • Experience had taught them that truth had sharp edges and hard corners, and could be seriously at odds with kindness.
  • Many people find it hard to go to church if they've been away for a while. I've seen it very often. And I'd say to them, It's because it means something to you. As it should be! So, you see, there's no reason at all to be disappointed. I used to say, The Sabbath is faithful. In a week she'll be here again.
  • "That is why it is called a Spirit," he said. "The word in Hebrew also means wind. 'The Spirit of God brooded on the face of the deep.' It is a sort of enveloping atmosphere."
  • As a matter of courtesy they treated one another's deceptions like truth, which was a different thing from deceiving or being deceived. In fact, it was a great part of the fabric of mutual understanding that made their family close.
  • Her family was slower to forgive a failure of discretion than they were to forgive most things actually prohibited in Scripture.

Jack (2020) edit

  • She said, "Meaninglessness would come as a terrible blow to most people. It would be full of significance for them. So it wouldn't be meaningless. That's where I always end up. Once you ask if there is meaning, the only answer is yes. You can't get away from it."
  • He had a way of anticipating memories he particularly did not want to have. That memory would be as unbearable as things are when there is nothing else to do but live with them.
  • But prison was terrible. It reduced him to absolute Jack, no matter what anyone thought of him. His great problem, after all, was other people. Prison was full of them.
  • He wanted to assure her that his life was solitary and ascetic, as it was, almost past bearing, relieved by the library, occasional drunkenness, and lately by lunch with the Baptists. But he knew how this would sound, either pathetic or, better, like lying.
  • Why were there an infinite number of ways to feel awkward? He believed this was a theological question having to do with man's place in the universe. But when he felt the true force of the question, he was always in the middle of an embarrassing emergency of some kind that paralyzed reflection.

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