from Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
Last week I wrote about the movie, Finding Forrester, and the notion of using someone else’s words to ease one’s way into writing. Borrowing another writer’s rhythms as a way of beginning. So this week I found myself looking for passages that are particularly evocative. This is such a personal thing—finding passages that resonate. Maybe each person has to search for themselves to find the right piece of writing from which to continue writing—or from which to leap.
But here, in any case, are two passages that I found. They’re from Marilynne Robinson’s lyrical novel, Housekeeping. She is probably better known now for her more recent novels, Gilead, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005, and a kind of sequel to that novel, Home. In 1980 she published this brief novel, Housekeeping, about which Doris Lessing says on the cover, “I found myself reading slowly—this is not a novel to be hurried through, for every sentence is a delight.”
It’s the kind of novel that makes me want to pay attention to paragraphs and sentences, to reread them, to linger over them. Copy them. Learn from them as I type them in.
First, the place, from page 9:
I love the sense of layers here. The layers of the lake, which fit well with a sense in this novel of layers beneath layers. The novel doesn’t so much move forward—though it does that too—but rather it lays down one layer upon another upon another.
Here is a passage about the narrator’s grandmother, from the same page. A portrait:
It’s not just the lake that has layers—but the characters. And that extended metaphor for the grandmother’s view of the world—that image for her imagined destination—that plain house in ordinary light—I can see that house. And I can’t help but think that the house needs to have a place in my healing library