Day 351-- The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought, by Marilynne Robinson (1998)

Marilynne Robinson just may be my favorite living author. But Marilynne Robinson just may be too smart for the likes of me.

The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought is a collection with a common theme. Robinson issues a rallying cry against the willful ignorance that western society has relied on regarding texts. Your average American will say they know that John Calvin was a stoic, humorless Scot from the 1800s that hated women and blacks and sex and fun because a friend read a book about another book about another book that said Calvin was cruel. If they even know who Calvin is at all. Robinson urges, on the other hand, to go to the source--to read about something, learn about it, understand how cultural standards play a role, and then go from there.

I didn't use the Calvin example on a whim--Robinson is Calvinist, and spends several essays defending he and his followers in America. She also takes critical looks at Darwinists (which is different from evolutionists, she points out) and writes much on abolitionists, schoolbooks from the 1800s and community.

And honestly, what I understood was amazing. Robinson is such a gifted writer and thinker that I can't help but be in awe (and be in agreement) with what she writes. But man, I did not 'get' about half of the essays. Robinson has a knack for going off on intellectual tangents that are so far over my head that it's funny. I re-read countless paragraphs and--after going some a third time--just gave up.

In short, I love Robinson's work, and some of her essays are great. But her fiction has more of a lasting impact on me than her essays do. (I just found out she's taking a sabbatical from her teaching duties this fall to work on her third novel!)


posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 8/22/2007 08:38:00 PM,


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