How to be Marilynne Robinson


Last night Marilynne Robinson won the Orange Prize for her third novel, Home. To celebrate, here are ten things that we learned from her delightful Paris Review interview last year:

  1. The characters that interest me are the ones that seem to pose questions in my own thinking.
  2. As soon as religion draws a line around itself it becomes falsified. It seems to me that anything that is written compassionately and perceptively probably satisfies every definition of religious whether a writer intends it to be religious or not.
  3. Cultures cherish artists because they are people who can say, Look at that! It’s beautiful! And it’s not Versailles. It’s a brick wall with a ray of sunlight shining on it.
  4. To think that only faultless people are worthwhile seems like an incredible exclusion of almost everything of deep value in the human saga. Sometimes I can’t believe the narrowness that has been attributed to God in terms of what he would approve and disapprove.
  5. I dress like a bum [when I’m writing]. John Cheever would wear a suit and hat and go down from his apartment to the basement of his building with an attache case. But that’s not me. I like to be as forgetful of my own physical being as I can be.
  6. I know there’s a sentence that I need, and I just run it through my head until it sounds right.
  7. I owe everything I’ve done to the fact that I am very much at ease being alone.
  8. Religion has presented itself in some extremely unattractive forms. It has recruited people into excitements that don’t look attractive to their neighbours. People seem profoundly disposed towards religion. yet they’re not terribly good at it.
  9. When I think about death, the idea that life will go on without me makes me melancholy. There’s so much to miss: history and architecture! But it won’t miss me.
  10. We should think of our humanity as a privilege.

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