I finished Marilynne Robinson’s collection of essays When I Was A Child I Read Books. I find her thought process fascinating. I end up having to read her essays slowly so that I can think about all that she says.
One aspect that I appreciate about her writing is that she does not “pigeon-hole” herself into any specific political or ideological category. She does not hide the fact that she embraces the Christian faith and takes on Victor J. Stenger’s The New Atheism in a critical debate. At the same time, many of her ideas about generosity and aleviating poverty could put her on the liberal side of politics.
Her knowledge of science, religion, philosophy, literature and history is amazing. She has a fondness for sixteenth century theologian John Calvin, old church hymns, and Edgar Allan Poe:
Edgar Allan Poe began to matter to me in what might fairly be called my childhood, my early adolescence. I more than forgave him his febrile imagination. In fact I loved the dark gorgeousness of his mind, and the utter, quite palpable, almost hallucinatory loneliness of it. His elegance and learnedness were his defenses, ironic, conscious, and pure for that reason. I have always thought of him as a man waiting out the endless night of his life with a book in his hand, some quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, noting the smell and feel of the leather binding, the pretty trace of gilding on the spine, almost too moved by the gratuitous humanity of the thing to open it and put himself in the power of whatever old music still lived in it. Runes and rhymes, labials and sibilants, trying the sound of them under his breath, while the long hours passed. I read everything I could find of his, at some point even the essay – or as he would have it, the poem- called Eureka.
I’m now going to have to read this poem by Poe.