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An Attic Full of Sermons

Tessa Hadley: Marilynne Robinson

21 April 2005
Gilead 
by Marilynne Robinson.
Virago, 282 pp., £14.99, April 2005, 1 84408 147 8
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... In 1980, when she was in her late thirties, Marilynne Robinson published her first novel, Housekeeping. Her way of seeing things seemed to have sprung from nowhere and was like no one else’s. The novel won awards, high praise from critics, and the devotion of readers, and it has not been forgotten: its fame has spread in a slow aftershock, passed on by word of mouth, cropping up on lists of the best contemporary novels ...

He Tasks Me

Mark Ford: Marilynne Robinson

9 October 2008
Home 
by Marilynne Robinson.
Virago, 325 pp., £16.99, September 2008, 978 1 84408 549 1
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... Warren, replies: ‘I should have called it/Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.’ Home is Marilynne Robinson’s third novel; published four years after Gilead and 27 years after her astonishing debut, Housekeeping, it explores with unsparing precision and the most delicate subtlety the implications of Frost’s rival definitions of the idea of ...

Putting Religion in Its Place

Colm Tóibín: Marilynne Robinson

22 October 2014
Lila 
by Marilynne Robinson.
Virago, 261 pp., £16.99, October 2014, 978 1 84408 880 5
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... implications for their art in Eliot declaring ‘I am an Anglo-Catholic in religion’ and Marilynne Robinson ‘I am a mainline Protestant, a.k.a. a liberal Protestant’? In When I Was a Child I Read Books, her most recent collection of essays, Robinson wrote: ‘Relevance was precisely not an issue for me. I ...

Idaho

Graham Hough

5 March 1981
Housekeeping 
by Marilynne Robinson.
Faber, 218 pp., £5.25, March 1981, 0 571 11713 9
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The Noble Enemy 
by Charles Fox.
Granada, 383 pp., £6.95, February 1981, 0 246 11452 5
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The Roman Persuasion 
by Bernard Bergonzi.
Weidenfeld, 192 pp., £6.95, March 1981, 0 297 77927 3
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... How much can you see through the eyes of the Member of the Wedding? But from the first page Marilynne Roberts totally rejects this method. Ruth, truant from school, who has never had a friend or a mentor, who has hardly even talked to anybody outside her decaying family, nevertheless writes, and she writes – if we can imagine that at bus-stops and ...

How to be Green

Mary Douglas

13 September 1990
A Green Manifesto for the 1990s 
by Penny Kemp and Derek Wall.
Penguin, 212 pp., £4.99, July 1990, 0 14 013272 4
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Social Philosophy and Ecological Scarcity 
by Keekok Lee.
Routledge, 425 pp., £40, September 1989, 0 415 03220 2
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Mother Country 
by Marilynne Robinson.
Faber, 261 pp., £12.99, November 1989, 0 571 15453 0
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Blueprint for a Green Economy 
by David Pearce, Anil Markandya and Edward Barbier.
Earthscan, 192 pp., £6.95, September 1989, 1 85383 066 6
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TheFate of the Forest: Developers, Destroyers and Defenders of the Amazon 
by Susanna Hecht and Alexander Cockburn.
Verso, 366 pp., £16.95, November 1989, 0 86091 261 2
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Thinking Green: An Anthology of Essential Ecological Writing 
edited by Michael Allaby.
Barrie and Jenkins, 250 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 0 7126 3489 4
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... against the problem of free choice. The Green pulpit can descend to quite low levels of abuse, but Marilynne Robinson’s Mother Country is witty as well as vicious. It combines ghoulish glee over the horrors of plutonium manufactured in Sellafield and dispersed along the Cumbrian coast, with satire against the quaint insincerities of the British. Her ...

What’s next?

James Wood: Afterlives

14 April 2011
After Lives: A Guide to Heaven, Hell and Purgatory 
by John Casey.
Oxford, 468 pp., £22.50, January 2010, 978 0 19 509295 0
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... here of Dostoevsky, Rilke, Kafka, Bataille, Patrick White, Beckett, Nabokov, Bellow, Spark, Marilynne Robinson, Saramago or Coetzee (whose novel Diary of a Bad Year has several paragraphs on the afterlife). Nabokov’s work is shot through with a persistent mysticism; in Pnin, the author imagines the dead watching us as ‘a democracy of ...

Silence

Wendy Steiner

1 June 1989
Real Presences 
by George Steiner.
Faber, 236 pp., £12.99, May 1989, 0 571 14071 8
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... important assessment of the texts and the world of the critic. To see how Leonardo or Beethoven or Marilynne Robinson is received in 1989 in England is to find out a great deal about England today. Criticism is both a crucial historical record and a contemporary mirror, and the critic is surely more consciously and generously immersed in the present ...

Under the Flight Path

August Kleinzahler: Christopher Middleton

18 May 2016
... Timon of Athens, or the letters of Edward FitzGerald. One time it was an essay on storytelling by Marilynne Robinson, the next a little known novel by Joan Chase set in rural Ohio and entitled During the Reign of the Queen of Persia. It was at Christopher’s that I first heard the piano pieces of the Catalan composer Federico Mompou. On another occasion ...

The Hagiography Factory

Thomas Meaney: Arthur Schlesinger Jr

8 February 2018
Schlesinger: The Imperial Historian 
by Richard Aldous.
Norton, 486 pp., £23.99, November 2017, 978 0 393 24470 0
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... exchanges appear to have been weightier than the mutual flattery of those between Obama and Marilynne Robinson). But Schlesinger’s main duties kicked in after the assassination. A Thousand Days, Schlesinger’s 1032-page memorial – a page for every day of his service to the presidency – is mostly devoted to JFK’s innovations in the Third ...

Poor Rose

Christian Lorentzen: Against Alice Munro

6 June 2013
Dear Life 
by Alice Munro.
Chatto, 319 pp., £18.99, November 2012, 978 0 7011 8784 2
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... middle period has been sanded to an uncommon smoothness, but you never get, say, the sinuosity of Marilynne Robinson or the snap of Mary McCarthy. The stories are always filled out, where an elliptical strategy might have proved useful to a writer churning over material she’s used before, as in the case of Lydia Davis. I started to think of reading ...

The Magic Bloomschtick

Colin Burrow: Harold Bloom

19 November 2019
The American Canon: Literary Genius from Emerson to Pynchon 
by Harold Bloom, edited by David Mikics.
Library of America, 426 pp., £25, October 2019, 978 1 59853 640 9
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... is accused of ‘churchwardenly mewings’ against Emerson, which may explain his banishment), or Marilynne Robinson, one of the best living anatomists of the tangled relationship between faith and community in America. But the American canon does include Philip Roth, as well as Don DeLillo and Thomas Pynchon, in whom Bloom found dark offshoots of the ...

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