Tagged with marilynne robinson

Trying to Say God—Friday morning

The morning Randy Boyagoda egan with Randy Boyagoda’s talk, “Trying to say God without sounding like Marilynne Robinson.” Boyagoda’s thesis was that the first and primary purpose of literature i to increase charity and towards that end he did a dive into a novel by Mary McCarthy, The Group and a story by David Constantin, “The Loss.” This was followed by a reading from his upcoming novel, Original Prin, which sadly is to be published by a small Canadian publisher which means that it will be a challenge for me to get a hold of a copy when it comes out in the fall of 2018 (although I suppose it will be for sale when TTSG19 takes place in Toronto). One of my favorite moments from the reading was when Boyagoda read a line from his novel, “Anglicans are bashing you on Good Friday” and followed it with the comment, “That’s probable the best line I’ve written in my life.”

My second talk of the morning was Paula Huston’s “Lectio Divina: How an ancient monastic practice can Paula Hustonrevitalize literature.”

Huston proposed as a problem the idea that we are losing our ability to read deeply and well, citing as causes the internet, TV & movies and self-referntial reading, i.e., the idea that reading exists to make a personal connection with the material and being quick to dismiss work that seems unrelatable on the surface (I’m a bit ashamed to realize how much of myself I see in this latter category, although I think I’m getting better).

Her cure: simplify, practice solitude and silence and develop focus, this last being where the lectio divina comes into play. She proposes as a mode for reading to eliminate distractions, avoid making personal demands on the text, develop the ability to listen and proceed with anticipation. She also described how she applied the principles of the lectio to her writing practice where she would write blog posts inspired by photographs of nature. In this practice her guidelines were to confine herself to a tight framework, don’t think up a topic ahead of time, look at photos until one begins to “speak,” give the work total attention and don’t stop until she gets a surprise. 

The final talk of the morning was my first proper panel, with John Farrell, Rebecca Bratten Weiss and Jonathan Ryan on “Finding the sacred in the profane: The role of vulgarity in religious art.”

John Farrell, Rebecca Bratten Weiss, Jonathan Ryan

This was structured the way that I wish more panels were, as more of an onstage conversation than as a series of independent talks, although it felt like they might have benefitted from each member of the panel having his or her own mic since the passing of the microphone took away from some of the potential for spontaneity in the conversation. The discussion was wide ranging from Hieronymous Bosch to Thirteen Reasons Why. Jonathan Ryan pointed out that there are a number of “not suitable for church” passages in the Bible itself in defense of vulgarity and the essential earthiness of the incarnational reality of Jesus.

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Beautiful Sentences: Marilynne Robinson

You can hate thoughts. That‘s interesting. I hate most of my thoughts.

Marilynne Robinson, Home.

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Beautiful Sentences: Marilynne Robinson

I think hope is the worst thing in the world. I really do. It makes a fool of you while it lasts. And then when it’s gone, it’s like there’s nothing left of you at all.

Marilynne Robinson, Home.

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2016 in reading

My diversity report for the year: Women authors 48% (down from 51.4% last year). Non-white authors were 16.4% of my reading (up from 14.8% last year). I chose my book to hit diversity targets 25% of the time, down from 37.5% last year. I think part of that is that I’ve been more reluctant to let books by white men into my to-read list. My Dead White Men number, meanwhile, despite this climbed from 10.7% of my reading to 14.4%. Non-US authors declined to 39.9% from 41.9%, translations accounted for 10% down from 11.4% while books in Spanish increased to 3.8% from 1.1%.

The authors I’ve met number also climbed slightly from 2.5% from 1.45% Re-reads went up to 5.4% from 3.7%, authors new to me were 71.8% compared to 76.9% last year. Fiction and poetry both declined in my reading, at 47.5% (from 53.4%) and 1.3% (from 5.9%).

My total number of books was 81, down from 88 last year.

And now, my favorite reads of the year, in alphabetical order by title. Worth noting: Only one white man in the list, and mostly women. I think this is the first time my favorite list has included two books by the same author (Mary Rakow was a wonderful discovery this year). Franny and Zooey, was a re-read, but a wonderful re-read. I read La Fiesta del Chivo in Spanish.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

La Fiesta del Chivo by Mario Vargas Llosa

Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

Lila by Marilynne Robinson

The Memory Room by Mary Rakow

This Is Why I Came by Mary Rakow

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

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Beautiful sentences

I think hope is the worst thing in the world. I really do. It makes a fool of you while it lasts. And then when it’s gone, it’s like there’s nothing left of you at all.

Marilynne Robinson, Home.

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Beautiful sentences

Jack glanced up at her blandly, not quite smiling, touching his fingertips together as if there were no such thing in the world as a hint.

Marilynne Robinson, Home.

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Beautiful sentences

When the pie was done and the roast was in the oven and the biscuits were made and set aside and the old man had nodded off in the warmth of the kitchen, Jack went upstairs and Glory sat down to read for a while.

Marilynne Robinson, Home

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Beautiful sentences

My iniquity/punishment is greater than I can bear. In the Hebrew, her father said, that one word had two meanings and we chose one of them, which may make it harder for us to understand why the Lord would have pardoned Cain and protected him, and let him go on with his life, marry, have a son, build a city.

Marilynne Robinson, Home.

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Beautiful sentences

Once, five of the six younger Boughtons—Jack was elsewhere—played a joyless and determined game of fox and geese in the tender crop of alfalfa, the beautiful alfalfa, so green it was almost blue, so succulent that a mist stood on its tiny leaves even in the middle of the day.

Marilynne Robinson, Home.

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Beautiful sentences

In the matter of belief, I have always found that defenses have the same irrelevance about them as the criticisms they are meant to answer.
Marilynne Robinson, Gilead.
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