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Books: Home

February 28, 2010 | Books

I just finished reading Home by Marilynne Robinson. It was a closer look at some of the people in Gilead. A bit darker than Gilead (not as dark as Housekeeping, though) but just as insightful. Robinson is an amazing writer.

Posted by Becky @ 11:30 am | 1 Comment  


February 24, 2010 | Blogland games,Stuff,Words

Magpie Musing makes me think. She also makes me happy. She’s inspired me (again), this time to think about what makes me happy. Here’s a list.

  • Books

    “Nothing is more human than a book.” ~ Marilynne Robinson, The Paris Review, Issue 186, Fall 2008.

  • Laughter
  • Hugs your body fits right into
  • Lists — making them, crossing them off
  • Brilliant summer greens
  • Blooming azaleas
  • Angel-food cake
  • Making a good meal then sitting down to eat it with people I love (and some wine, of course)
  • Coffee
  • The orange sky that makes my kids say, “Mommy, that’s such a beautiful sunset! I bet you wish you had your camera.” (Yep.)
  • Music, music, music ~ How can you listen to any of these songs and not at least smile? Say Hey (I Love You), Michael Franti; Love Serenade, The Waifs; Sweet Potato Pie, James Taylor; How I do math: Una mas cervesa + Billy Bacon & the Forbidden Pigs + the Zoo Bar = One Mighty Tasty Tex-Mex Bluesbilly Taco
Posted by Becky @ 6:00 am | 3 Comments  

Books: Housekeeping

February 9, 2010 | Books

I just finished reading Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. Wow. Could it be any more different than Gilead? I don’t think so. Gilead was about a dying man writing to his son, yet each page was filled with joy and hope. Housekeeping was about two sisters growing up together, and each page was filled with abandonment, separation, growing apart and dark, dark, dark things. It was SO sad and depressing.

No matter what the topic, though, Robinson is a master at putting words together. Just a few quotes that stood out for me.

It was a source of both terror and comfort to me then that I often seemed invisible — incompletely and minimally existent, in fact. It seemed to me that I made no impact on the world, and that in exchange I was privileged to watch it unawares.

Having a sister or a friend is like sitting at night in a lighted house. Those outside can watch you if they want, but you need not see them. You simply say, ‘Here are the perimeters of our attention. If you prowl around under the windows till the crickets go silent, we will pull the shades. If you wish us to suffer your envious curiosity, you must permit us not to notice it.’ Anyone with one solid human bond is that smug, and it is the smugness as much as the comfort and safety that lonely people covet and admire.

I hated waiting. If I had one particular complaint, it was that my life seemed composed entirely of expectation. I expected — an arrival, an explanation, an apology. There had never been one, a fact I could have accepted, were it not true that, just when I had got used to the limits and dimensions of one moment, I was expelled into the next and made to wonder again if any shapes hit in its shadows.

Then there is the matter of my mother’s abandonment of me. Again, this is the common experience. They walk ahead of us, and walk too fast, and forget us, they are so lost in thoughts of their own, and soon or late they disappear. The only mystery is that we expect it to be otherwise.

I’m reading her book Home right now.

Posted by Becky @ 6:10 am | 2 Comments  

Books: Gilead

January 17, 2010 | Books,Quotes

I’ve recently been told that I don’t deserve what I have.

Standing right behind that, I believe, is a condemnation that I don’t practice religion the way I “should.”

I have heard any number of fine sermons in my life, and I have known any number of deep souls. I am well aware that people find fault, but it seems to me to be presumptuous to judge the authenticity of anyone’s religion, except one’s own. And that is also presumptuous. (p. 173)

This has prompted a lot of self-reflecting and a search for understanding on my part. That search has led me to realize some very important things about the wretchedness of cruelty people visit on each other. It’s so difficult to see the good in others when one only looks for faults.

Let me say first of all that the grace of God is sufficient to any transgression, and that to judge is wrong, the origin and essence of much error and cruelty. (p. 155)

While all this happens, I read a book called Gilead. It’s written by Marilynne Robinson, an Iowa author. In the book, a kind, gentle, old man — a preacher — writes a last letter to his young son. Unintentionally, he also speaks to me when I am in desperate need of kind words.

When I read books is almost as important as what books I read. Reading is not just about content but also context, and it’s not just the context of the words in the books. It’s the context of my life. Seemingly unrelated books I read in sequence often fit together in unforseen ways. I often find myself reading a book at a time when I need those stories or information most because of what’s happening in my life.

It seems to me there is less meanness in atheism, by a good measure. It seems that the spirit of religious self-righteousness this article deplores is precisely the spirit in which it is written. Of course he’s right about many things, one of them being the destructive potency of religious self-righteousness. (p. 146)

And so it is with the old man in Gilead. He’s taking stock, looking back on his own life and looking ahead to his son’s life without him. He’s trying to tell his son what’s important. In doing so, he speaks to several things that have been on my mind lately — understanding the differences of others without mocking or ridiculing the very essence of who they are.

In every important way we are such secrets from each other, and I do believe that there is a separate language in each of us, also a separate aesthetics and a separate jurisprudence. 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. (p. 197)

Some people believe the only way to hear the voice of God is to sit in a church or cathedral and listen to the voice of someone who preaches.

I hear the voice of God in a brilliant sunrise.

I hear it when I look into the depths of my husband’s or my children’s eyes.

You see how it is godlike to love the being of someone. Your existence is a delight to us. I hope you never have to long for a child as I did, but oh, what a splendid thing it has been that you came finally, and what a blessing to enjoy you now for almost seven years.

And I hear it in the words of books I read.

Posted by Becky @ 12:03 am | 2 Comments  

Books: Iowa books & authors

August 6, 2009 | Books,Iowa

As promised, here’s a list of Iowa books and authors.



  • Home: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson, who teaches at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and lives in Iowa City. She has written several other books, including Pulitzer Prize-winning Gilead and Housekeeping. She also wrote two non-fiction books, Mother Country and The Death of Adam. Home is a companion piece to Gilead and a variation of the prodigal-son parable. The son, Jack Boughton, returns in 1957 to Gilead, Iowa, where his story unfolds.
  • Lassiter Hill by Daniel Dundon, who is a former reporter and editor for the Waterloo Courier and the Cedar Rapids Gazette. He now lives in Jacksonville, Fla. Lassiter Hill is a novel inspired by an Iowa murder case.
  • The River Road (American Fiction) by Tricia Currans-Sheehan, who grew up on a farm along the Des Moines River. She now lives in Sioux City and teaches at Briar Cliff University. The River Road is the sequel to her first book, The Egg Lady and Other Neighbors.


True crime

Posted by Becky @ 6:00 am | 6 Comments  


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