When I Was a Child I Read Books

Marilynne Robinson. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (204p) ISBN 978-0-374-29878-4
Author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel Gilead, Robinson weighs in with a series of tightly developed essays, some personal but mostly more general, on the Big Themes: social fragmentation in modern America, human frailty, faith. Her project is a hard-edged liberalism, sustained by a Calvinist ethic of generosity. Among her contemporary intellectual models are theologians such as John Shelby Spong and Jack Miles. From earlier times, she invokes Moses, Jesus, Calvin, Emerson, Johann Friedrich Oberlin (who figures indirectly in Gilead), Poe, Whitman, and others. In these times of the ever-ascending religious right, in the aftermath of what she sees as the ideologically secularist-driven cold war, Robinson bravely explores the corrosive potion of “Christian anti-Judaism” and what it really ought to mean to be “a Christian nation.” The closing essay is about the twin establishmentarianism straitjackets of Freudianism and Darwinism in the collective presumptions regarding the supremacy of self-interest—ill-informed fundamentalist nostalgias being one clear sign—which, she says ruefully, have supplanted true religious discourse. Agent: Ellen Levine, Trident Media Group. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 12/19/2011
Release date: 03/13/2012
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Hardcover - 206 pages - 978-1-4434-1093-9
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