Monday, July 12, 2010

Marilynne Robinson

Once again, I find myself indebted to Andrew Sullivan for bringing something or someone amazing to my attention.  In this case, it is a someone.  Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marilynne Robinson has a new book:  Absence of Mind, and I'll be running -- not walking -- to buy it today.  No less an authority than John Stewart recommends as much, so 'nuf said.

With his usual attention to detail, Andrew provides links to his earlier mentions of Ms. Robinson as well as a link to a 2004 interview of her conducted by a fellow writer at The Atlantic, Jennie Rothenberg Gritz, following the publication of Gilead.  I'd like to share two quotes that struck me the hardest:

One of the things that I think churches do—one of the reasons people sustain them over thousands of years—is they make visible the things that are sacred in life. They bless babies, they bury elders, they sanctify marriages. Anything that might have a transcendent meaning is something that is reenacted ritually in a church. So in a certain way, they're simply raising up and making visible the fact of the holiness of life.

[On abolitionists and religion]  These people that I've been talking about, the abolitionists and so on, were very religious people. They knew scripture inside out. And they were very aware of the fact that the great burden of scripture is the call for justice, the call for openhandedness toward the poor and the alien. It's amazing, but I don't know if anyone's even reading the text anymore. It's been boiled down to two or three verses that are used basically to make other people feel bad.

[Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 2010.]