Friday, June 01, 2012

Marilynne Robinson

I am currently reading Gilead and have become interested in learning a little more about its author.  Surprisingly, quite a few articles about Marilynne Robinson have been coming my way in recent times and I think this Paris Review interview also floated by on pure chance. I have been reading it and rereading it since last night and it has completely blown me away. One word when I think of her, Respect.

Here is what she says about writing essays and it rings so true:

INTERVIEWER
Most people know you as a novelist, but you spend a lot of your time writing nonfiction. What led you to start writing essays?
ROBINSON
To change my own mind. I try to create a new vocabulary or terrain for myself, so that I open out—I always think of the Dutch claiming land from the sea—or open up something that would have been closed to me before. That’s the point and the pleasure of it. I continuously scrutinize my own thinking. I write something and think, How do I know that that’s true? If I wrote what I thought I knew from the outset, then I wouldn’t be learning anything new.
In this culture, essays are often written for the sake of writing the essay. Someone finds a quibble of potential interest and quibbles about it. This doesn’t mean the writer isn’t capable of doing something of greater interest, but we generate a lot of prose that’s not vital. The best essays come from the moment in which people really need to work something out.