Keizer, OR :: Marilynne Robinson is the author of “Housekeeping”, “Gilead”, “Home”, and a book of essays, “The Death of Adam.” She is one of my favorite writers, and I remember “Housekeeping”, especially, as a work of severe beauty.
In an August 31, 2009 interview for Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, Bob Abernethy asked Robinson, who is also an instructor at the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop, what are some of the most important things she wants her writing students to understand. I’ve never sat in one of Robinson’s classes, but I try to learn from her books and essays what it means be to a writer of faith engaging with the world. Her answer to Abernethy’s question is encouraging when I start to despair about whether the OTNR book will have anything new for the world:
That [the students] have their own testimony to offer, that if they think about what they perceive and what they feel carefully, if they watch other people closely and magnanimously, they will have something new to say, something that’s an actual addition to what has been said. That they have no obligation to be derivative or imitative in any way. That is absolutely not the point. I want them to know that if they are thoughtful people, if they have the courage to evaluate things independently and to enjoy the processes of their own thought, then they will give the world something new, something worth having.