Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Short Note on Re-reading Gilead

This week I have re-read Marilynne Robinson's novel, Gilead, in part in anticipation of reading her recently published new novel, and also just because. It's a great book. Of course, I'm hardly alone in saying this. It did, after all, win the Pulitzer Prize, and was, I gather, fairly widely read, for a literary novel. And yet it strikes me that the book is under-appreciated. I suspect that the religious content throws many readers. (The book takes the form of an elderly preacher writing to his now seven year-old son, words he expects the boy to read when he is an adult.) Certainly I have encountered numerous bewildered responses to the novel, readers simply unable or unwilling to process the religious material, who somehow seem to read it as some kind of tract. This is unfortunate, and baffling. Readers of this blog know that I am not a religious person, yet I have had no trouble with the religious nature of this novel. Indeed, I name it among the more important novels I have read, and I am actually saddened by the capacity people have to misread the book. It is, in many ways, what used to be called "wisdom literature", yet it is also a marvelous, and subtle, literary performance. And, it seems to me, a wholly appropriate literary response to our current situation, in the sense in which I have here attempted to channel or expand on Josipovici and others.

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