I’ve just finished reading Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. I don’t know if my view of the book will settle down to something a little less extreme but as I type this I feel this is one of the greatest books I’ve ever read. I usually mark books I own – deface them some might complain – with vertical lines in the margins; small reminders to help me navigate back to passages I have found especially compelling. This technique was largely redundant with Housekeeping. The whole of chapter eight, for example, would have required a vertical line along its margin. I’m no book reviewer so I’ll finish with one small passage to exemplify, I hope, the precision and powerful elegance of the writing.
“For need can blossom into all the compensations it requires. To crave and to have are as like a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is a foreshadowing-the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one’s hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again. Though we dream and hardly know it, longing, like an angel, fosters us, smooths our hair, and brings us wild strawberries.”
A man who lies to himself is more easily offended than anyone else. For it is sometimes very pleasant to take offence, isn’t it?
And yet he knows that no one has offended him and that he has invented the offence himself, that he has lied just for the beauty of it, that he has exaggerated to make himself look big and important, that he has fastened on a phrase and made a mountain out of a molehill – he knows it all and yet is the first to take offence, he finds pleasure in it and feels mightily satisfied with himself, and so reaches the point of enmity….
Dostoyevsky – Father Zossima in The Brothers Karamazov
(Just seemed apt in these troubled and troubling times……)