Saturday, November 27, 2004

Good 'Housekeeping'

I'm currently reading Marilynne Robinson's 'Housekeeping', and though I'm twenty years behind everyone else in realizing this is a great, great novel, I'll stand up and say so anyway. I found it after browsing her new novel, 'Gilead', which is also her first since 'Housekeeping.' It's kind of hard to put down a book that features lines like this one, describing the main character's grandfather: ''...a wild-haired, one-eyed, scrawny old fellow with a crooked beard, like a paintbrush left to dry with lacquer in it.''

'Housekeeping' is full of these lines, poetry that clings to everything with a kind of dampness after reading it. It feels like one of those novels the author spent their whole life writing to, almost too good to be true. I wonder too if the reason it's taken her so many years to follow with another is because she spent what 'writer's capital' she had writing it. Writing a book sometimes feels like being Dr. Frankenstein to me, stitching together parts from here and there, sewing together the best material from various sources to create one whole. You sort of mine yourself for all you have, making it harder and harder as you go to generate new insight. You have to live again first, and who knows how long that takes.

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