Get Clucky!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

What Have I Been Doing All This Time?

Well, I haven't been reading Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, that's what. I have no idea why not. A copy sat on my mother's bedside table the whole time I was growing up, but somehow I never got around to it.

Just to state the obvious: it is very good.

Here's a sentence, just from the beginning or so, that gives a sense of the prose:

Bernice, who lived below us, was our only visitor. She had lavender lips and orange hair, and arched eyebrows each drawn in a single brown line, a contest between practice and pasy which sometimes ended at her ear. She was an old woman, but she managed to look like a young woman with a ravaging disease.

But that's a little more flip sounding than most of the book, which is both placid and melancholy. It is a book sort of about the practice of keeping house, but actually it is about being unable to keep a house. It is about being unable to keep anything.

Which, let's be clear, is kind of a hard thing to read about if you're unsure about your ability to baby-make...which is an ability that, around here at least, has a lot to do exactly with the desire to have and to hold: to keep. Nevertheless, I think the book helped me worked through some stuff, and also, more professionally, have a good time imagining course syllabi I might include it in. I might pair it with White Noise, for example, which is also about keeping and not keeping and impermanence and feeling set loose. But this one would, I think, blow white noise right out of the water.


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