A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
A New York Times Bestseller
A New York Magazine Best Book of the Year
An Economist Best Book of the Year
Pulitzer Prize–Winning Author of Gilead
Marilynne Robinson has built a sterling reputation as a writer of sharp, subtly moving prose, not only as a major American novelist, but also as a rigorous thinker and incisive essayist.
In When I Was a Child I Read Books she returns to and expands upon the themes which have preoccupied her work with renewed vigor.
In "Austerity as Ideology," she tackles the global debt crisis, and the charged political and social political climate in this country that makes finding a solution to our financial troubles so challenging. In "Open Thy Hand Wide" she searches out the deeply embedded role of generosity in Christian faith. And in "When I Was a Child," one of her most personal essays to date, an account of her childhood in Idaho becomes an exploration of individualism and the myth of the American West. Clear-eyed and forceful as ever, Robinson demonstrates once again why she is regarded as one of our essential writers.
Author of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel Gilead, Robinson weighs in with a series of tightly developed essays, some personal but mostly more general, on the Big Themes: social fragmentation in modern America, human frailty, faith. Her project is a hard-edged liberalism, sustained by a Calvinist ethic of generosity. Among her contemporary intellectual models are theologians such as John Shelby Spong and Jack Miles. From earlier times, she invokes Moses, Jesus, Calvin, Emerson, Johann Friedrich Oberlin (who figures indirectly in Gilead), Poe, Whitman, and others. In these times of the ever-ascending religious right, in the aftermath of what she sees as the ideologically secularist-driven cold war, Robinson bravely explores the corrosive potion of "Christian anti-Judaism" and what it really ought to mean to be "a Christian nation." The closing essay is about the twin establishmentarianism straitjackets of Freudianism and Darwinism in the collective presumptions regarding the supremacy of self-interest ill-informed fundamentalist nostalgias being one clear sign which, she says ruefully, have supplanted true religious discourse.
A crucial perspective just here, just now. This is very compelling reading for anyone who's not happy with how things are, yet believes they can and should be put right. I'd long for a living discussion among Robinson, Slavoj Žižek, and David Graeber of these matters in hopes of finding what they're all three pointing toward.