Marilynne Robinson on Reading and Thinking

Monday, August 27, 2012

Novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson talks about her new collection of essays, When I Was a Child I Read Books. She tackles the global debt crisis, the charged political and social political climate, the role of generosity in Christian faith, and talks about her own childhood in Idaho.


Marilynne Robinson

Comments [35]

gene from nyc

Anna, what are you babbling about?

Oh, I see--you. Of course. Well, that's what it's really all about, isn't it? It must be tough being the only intelligent being in the universe, and to have to run around the internet straightening out everyone else on random message boards.

Usually, whenever I see a message that starts right out with snarky insults ("barbarity") like yours, I hit the "ignore this poster" button. (Please, WNYC?)

I only read on because i'd been away for awhile, and couldn't believe that classic, hate-filled internet trolls had begun issuing their grandiose, self-important pronuciamentos onto WNYC's board.

Please, gratify your feeble ego somewhere else; we're interested in intelligent conversation. And we see through you.

Aug. 30 2012 06:55 PM
anna from new york

OK, bastards. Where are you? Still striking "civilized" and "compassionate" "liberal" poses.
A great guy just presented the situation in Syria and not a single one listened? commented?
Continue posturing. When there is no conscience ...

Aug. 29 2012 02:25 PM
anna from new york

OK, thinking is good and I was thinking.
Why a woman called Marilynne (?) Summers (?) is praising Calvinism ... for generosity (?)?
This seems to be as normal and natural as ... I'll skip what I have to say.
It's true that those Presbyterians I know talk about "Helping the poor" all the time. It's clear that when they say this they hope that countless more poor will be created (with or without their help) ... to be helped.
Not exactly my idea of generosity.

Aug. 29 2012 06:39 AM
anna from new york

Paul, you don't know how idiotic is whatever you say.
If it isn't Buddhism, it's a quote - one can't write a paragraph without some crutches.
I can assure you that you can't be like me.
I haven't spent my life as a marching zombie and it's too late for you to catch up with me.
Continue marching.

Aug. 29 2012 01:48 AM
Paul from NYC

With all of your negative spewing, you could not possibly make the world a better place, did that not occur to you? You are certainly not someone to emulate. People who are run by their emotions remain immature, it's a key factor. Anna, from just your few words I learn how NOT to be, how NOT to live... Although you say you're foreign-born, like most Americans, you're just growing old without growing up. It's why foreigners like to come here, since Americans have figured out how to remain childish... George Carlin said it is called the "American Dream" because you have to be asleep to believe it... Pleasant dreams.

Aug. 28 2012 09:13 PM
anna from new york

Why am I not surprised, Paul ...? Yes, what I need now is ... Buddhism.
And several decades of Buddhism in this country (and total destruction of society) isn't enough? We need more babbling and posturing - in any sense, including literal. Yeah, I'll just plunge into New Age, yoga posturing, grass eating dirty waters. Sure.
BTW, Paul you didn't look up what I recommended (or didn't understand what you read). I am an agnostic and not an atheist and there is an ocean of difference.
Boy, do I despise this empty, pretentious crowd.

Aug. 28 2012 02:51 PM
Paul from NYC

Now let's see Anna... you say you're a Social-Democrat, progressive, Pascallian, atheist, historian... well, for all those things (and endless others no doubt) I recommend a good strong dose of Buddhist perspective on emptiness and non-dualism (or, if you prefer, continental philosophy), in order to help you clear up all, if not most, of your reifying tendencies... Sayonara...

Aug. 28 2012 02:05 PM
John A

Worth a second listen, and with downloads, I can. Thank-You.

Aug. 28 2012 09:19 AM
anna from new york

"This time, go outside the usual conspiracy-theory-nonsense trough"
Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha
This was fun.
So, illiterate, brain dead American "liberals" put me on shelf with right-wing "conspiracy." Life is simple when one is ... illiterate.
Now, I happen to be a Social-Democrat (the only one in this land? look up the word), a progressive (look up the word) who happen to despise illiterate and hypocritical "my precious body, my precious mansion" AMERICAN "liberals."
I never claimed I was religious. I actually am a Pascallian (look up the word) agnostic (look up the word) who is concern about ethics (look up the word and try ... to think)
And yes, I have a solid training in history and I view Obama as a charlatan who correctly guessed that illiterate, pretentious population, totally insensitive to demagoguery, ignorant of history and raised on corporate Carnelian nonsense (smile, shake hands, looks in eyes) will love "Hope/unity/change" and elect the guy who smiles, shakes hands and looks into eyes while the world is collapsing.

Aug. 28 2012 07:34 AM
anna from new york

OK, Paul.
Robinson is civilized - dishonest, manipulative person is civilized. Sure, only in the eyes of illiterate, highly immoral, full of complexes American so called "liberals." Why don't you look up the word "ethics."
Gene, I am clearly foreign born and we were not given training/orders: write in one comment or, barely monolingual, barely monocultural, barely educated, but fully pretentious individuals will call you "troll" - as ordered. They will do it on their breaks from zombie marching and chanting: strategic planning, team working, positivity, etc.
Speaking of barbarity ...

Aug. 28 2012 06:05 AM
Gene from NYC

>>what are you babbling about?

You, mostly; a couple of others. It's not hard to get. I know it's always difficult for you, but try harder.

Or, instead of wasting the precious moments of your life opining away on message boards, learn a thing or two. This time, go outside the usual conspiracy-theory-nonsense trough.

Thanks, Ellen! Good to be back, tho I do miss that CA sun and surf.

Aug. 27 2012 10:57 PM
Paul from NYC

anna -- talk about dishonesty! You give yourself away by not stopping to think carefully what you would like to say, instead of ranting for seven or eight posts -- just like a rooftop sniper! At least Marilynne's civilized. So say what you have to say, and then chill. Otherwise you risk boring the rest of us, and make yourself sound foolish...

Aug. 27 2012 10:27 PM
oscar from ny

Wow..anna you are seriously passionate about whats right :)

Aug. 27 2012 06:06 PM
anna from new york

I actually was impressed with Leonard, because he noticed at least two weak points - predestination an the rise of America, but he didn't push. Her intimidating constant giggling was discouraging any probing.
What was so funny, Lady?

Aug. 27 2012 04:51 PM
anna from new york

Well, Leonard, these are your listeners. I know that living in New York you don't have another choice.
"It's hard to imagine anyone reading Marilynne Robinson's work without finding it utterly honest"
Well, I didn't read her novels, but I KNOW that this argument is as good as the one I heard in 2007-08 hundreds of times - from celebrities/pre-school dropout, pseudo-intellectuals, and of course all sorts of promoters:
"Read Obama's book and you will know what person he is." Clearly, nobody told them about fairy tales, manipulations, self-promotion, or simply old-fashion dishonesty. He writes he is good. What else do you want?
Well, I want an educated society and I am not getting one.

Aug. 27 2012 04:43 PM

It's hard to imagine anyone reading Marilynne Robinson's work without finding it utterly honest. Dishonesty seems an issue one would have to bring from somewhere else.

Thank you for the interview.

Aug. 27 2012 04:35 PM
anna from new york

Ah, I agree that this lucid. It was very clear what she was doing - selling the pretentious and illiterate ... well... garbage.

Aug. 27 2012 04:35 PM
anna from new york

Well, what is interesting for some, is totally uninteresting for others. Some are actually are highly sensitive to demagoguery and manipulation. Again, go to some school, Gene. It looks like you have company.
dr anna

Aug. 27 2012 04:30 PM
Ellen Gilbert from Princeton, NJ

Marilynne Robinson's novels, "Houskeeping," "Gilead," and "Home" are three of the most beautiful books I have ever read. Her conversation with Mr. Lopate was lucid and interesting.

Welcome home, Gene.

Aug. 27 2012 03:38 PM
anna from new york

Well, my instinct (and knowledge) was correct. Although I had know idea who she was, I correctly identified the problem - intellectual dishonesty and manipulation and political sloganeering. I am happy to report that some critics of her latest book have noticed the same. It's difficult not to notice and only illiterate retards who function according to the rules "She is famous, so she must be great," "She shares my ideology, so she must be right," can "love, love, love her."
Gene, go to some school.
Thank God, I actually read many books too. Even more importantly, I actually have spent time thinking.
dr anna

Aug. 27 2012 03:06 PM
anna from new york

Gene, what are you babbling about?

Aug. 27 2012 02:29 PM
gene from NYC

Geez, I come back from vacation to a program chock-full of wonderful, provocative Lopate interviews--and find the comments section clogged with ugly screeds.

I used to thoroughly enjoy the WNYC site because, unlike most other internet boards, there was a relative dearth of trolls using the slightest pretext to push their down-the-rabbit-hole agendas. Look, I just got back from Calif.--I've seen more than enough of that frantic White Rabbit and the wingnuts who followed him!

Which is not to say that I, as an atheist, didn't love hanging around out there with a Catholic woman who teaches religion to high schoolers. The difference? She, as opposed to the displays here, is intelligent, educated, charming and LOTS of fun. And most of all, _thinks_.

Aug. 27 2012 02:02 PM
Sean Pisano from Brooklyn

Most of our modern buildings are now steel and glass. This is an evolution form about 40 years ago. Soon we will be switching to man made materials like carbon-fiber and green ideas to create our buildings.

Aug. 27 2012 01:57 PM
anna from new york

OK. Correction.
I meant:
This giggler is dishonest and shouldn't have been invited at all.

Aug. 27 2012 01:34 PM
anna from new york

I am still fuming.
Dear Leonard, if you invite dishonest morons, please do me a favor and ask (and repeat, pressure) some tough questions. This giggler is dishonest and you shouldn't have been invited at all.

Aug. 27 2012 01:32 PM
Hugh Sansom

School design certainly hasn't advanced in New York. NYC seems to have an unlimited supply of World War 2 surplus olive drab. I'm astonished by how depressing NYC invariably makes its schools.

As for risk-averseness. My understanding is that these things go in cycles. Parents went through as obsessively protective phase about 100 years ago. (I think WNYC may have had an interview with someone making this point.)

Aug. 27 2012 01:25 PM
John A

Could someone please make an Athiest comment that is engaging and not a rant? Not sellin' the point. Yeaaa, Thaaanks.

Aug. 27 2012 01:22 PM
anna from new york

I found her really repulsive and absolutely ignorant. There is a problem with fiction writers/literary analysts - a real reality (historical or contemporary) is more often than not totally absent. And these people armed with titles and pretentious language destroy our world.
dr anna

Aug. 27 2012 01:19 PM
anna from new york

An idiotic and dishonest babbler.
Iowa elected Obama. I don't know whether people in Iowa are religious or not, but clearly they are illiterate, insensitive to demagoguery and unable to think. Anyone who votes "Hope, unity, change." is beyond hope.
Secular professors cross the street to a church. Well this is a land of opportunists and yes, it's respectable to be religious and academic crooks know that. It pays off to cross a street.
No, no, no, Calvinism isn't about predestination, worshiping of the rich because they deserve to be rich and utter contempt for the poor. Yes, it's liberal religion, because it accepted divorce. Sure, only in the mind of this lady.
And Leonard, you're right, America became power already in the 19th century when there was utterly barbaric capitalism. The lady is confused here as everywhere else. Can someone tell her that America has been behind all European countries in social progress?

Aug. 27 2012 01:10 PM
HMI from Park Slope

Who is this smug, self-satisfied, 3rd-rate purveyor of left-wing cant? There is no liberal war on religion, but of course there is a right-wing war on women. There is no leftish war on the Constitution, but of course there absolutely is a war on the poor. To this woman, it is all self-evident, chuckles and nods included. And Leonard chuckles along. Pitiful.

Aug. 27 2012 01:00 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

For some reason - maybe you can explain - more orthodox - more religiously observant - people seem to eschew secular education and these people are starting to walk backward. We will soon see "Galileo v Pope" on the books again. A sad commentary, especially as, if you are a theist or deist, you cannot but believe that the Creator provided this planet and its people and we seem destined to use, abuse and misuse the whole system.

Aug. 27 2012 12:56 PM
Jeff Pappas from Dumbo

Also the far right religious folks want to create Negative Freedom laws ie Anti abortion Christian nation God bless America ( implies be dammed if not American )

Aug. 27 2012 12:55 PM
Hugh Sansom

Another in the line of Leonard Lopate interviews that I particularly like — connecting things that may not be obviously connected (to me), looking at things I study but from a quite different perspective. And I want to place Marilynne Robinson in my own political-intellectual landscape (yup, pretentious) and I can't quite do it. Great.

Aug. 27 2012 12:54 PM
Jeff Pappas from Dumbo

When I was a Child I stopped believing in God a few years after I relized Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny were Fairy Tales as well as other Myths and Polytheism.
Also too bad the far right in all religions wants to foist their views on the politics of all Countries.

Aug. 27 2012 12:52 PM
John A

I see plain links between this and the James Howard Kunstler segment.
My two main issues with the USA:
The fact that we consume per capita about 5X the global average.
When you reach a "perfect" standard of living, do you grow past it or stop?

Aug. 27 2012 12:51 PM

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