If someone put a gun to my head and said that I had to, HAD TO, create a graven image, I think I would end up making an idol of Marilynne Robinson. (Let’s just say for the sake of argument that I won’t burn in hell for the things I’m about to say.) She is the goddess of grammar. The monarch of metaphor. The dowager of dialogue. The Supreme Sovereign of story. Even Lev Grossman of Time magazine says, “As writers go, Robinson is among the superpowered.” I read her books worshipfully.
Home, the companion novel to her Pulitzer Prize winning Gilead, held me in it’s grip from the first page to the perfect last sentence. (Her last sentences are always perfect.) I think I was perpetually on the brink of tears, just from the sheer beauty and humanity worked meticulously into every word. It tells the story of a prodigal, Jack, from the perspective of his spinster sister, Glory. The two of them find themselves returning home middle-aged, after a failed attempt at life. Their father, Reverend Boughton, is a man whose life is characterized and dedicated to the grace of God, and his never ending love for his children, especially the reprobate Jack, is, well, Godlike. However, Jack finds that the grace of God can be as unrelenting and as unbearable as death when sin is unrepentant, and Glory is left to pick up the pieces.
I found myself wanting to write down quotes every two and a half paragraphs. God is found on every page and the picture of Him is by no means untruthful. This books proves the words of my writer’s workshop instructor, “Religious writing can be read by anyone if it’s good writing.” Robinson can certainly take her place among the likes of L’Engle and Lewis. There are things to be learned, both spiritual and literary, from Home. It reads much like a Psalm, which can be read over and over again, each time producing some new insight or reverent emotion.
Now that I’ve read Robinson’s works of fiction, I may need to include her non-fiction on my ever growing Book List of 2010. I know I can find The Death of Adam as an on-line copy on Amazon, which makes me feel both proud of her and sad. I also want to go back and reread Gilead, which is set at the same time and in the same town as Home, following the story of the Boughtons’ neighbor, Ames. I dream of being her student where she teaches at The Iowa Writer’s Workshop, one of the most prestigious creative writing programs in the world. Until then, I’ll use her books as my writing bible as I attempt to learn what she has mastered: bringing God into art.