Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Prose and weeping

Image result for housekeeping robinsonOn the weekend I read Housekeeping by Marilyn Robinson.  It's the first Marilyn Robinson book I've read. I think I read the wrong one. I'd heard so many good things about Marilyn Robinson from Ali and Meredith and so I had high hopes but...

The book was a disappointment. Didn't really enjoy it at all.  Liked elements of the plot. Enjoyed a bit here and there.  But some passages were just odd and the whole thing left me feeling unsatisfied at the end. Some of the descriptions took us off down rabbit holes that didn't add to the central thrust.  It was all too ethereal (which, admittedly, was part of the theme of impermanence but still didn't make me like the book) and what was actually occurring in the plot was at times difficult to understand. It reminded me somewhat of those really long passages from David Malouf which spend two pages describing birds till you are nearly exhausted with the desire to know what the point might be.  I feel like I'm letting all my poetic and literary friends down right now.  But it just didn't do it for me.

However, today I listened to a podcast that made me weep.  Unexpectedly weep in the kitchen when I should be starting the dishes.  And I'm not sure if it just struck me in an odd mood and whether it is one of those things that no one else will be able to see why I should care.... but at that moment for me it seems so poignant and so full of longing and love, that I cried for the beauty of it all.  You may think me crazy afterwards, but it was the July 12 edition of the podcast for Lake Wobegon (a podcast I must thank my good friends in PNG for first bring to my attention years ago).  You might have to be a fan of the series to appreciate the humour (if you aren't into vomit stories maybe give it a miss) that leads up to the song at the end (I realise I'm apologising repeatedly for my enjoyment of the podcast but I'm just not sure that you aren't going to think I've lost my mind if you listen to such an obscure piece of radio broadcast).  It's just that the final song, an adaptation of a passage from the Song of Solomon, was sung so sweetly but with the humour of the everyday mixed in.  It was like a moment that combined both the excellence and ordinariness of true love.  Not the extraordinary cinematic type of love. But the kind of the love that inhabits the spaces of ordinary people. The love of 60 years.  The love that treasures you even when you're tired and there's baby spit on your shoulder. The love that sees you as their own dear one even though you are fading and the world is aging and life is full of the divine and the ordinary and the everyday and the eternal and the absurd.  Maybe no one but me is going to see what I saw in it.  But here it is anyway.  Enjoy it and weep a little if you want to.  But don't feel bad if you think I'm just nuts.  Maybe all prose and meaning is somewhat an acquired taste.  Go and read Marilyn Robinson or Malouf if you want to instead.


Meredith said...

Dear one - I feel like I need to offer you absolution. :-)

Of her three novels, that one is probably the one I like the least. "Gilead" is the best one. "Home" is "Gilead" dressed in bleak and is interesting because it tells the tale of "Gilead" from another point of view. And I find the whole point of view/characterization thing very interesting. I suspect her soon to be released "Lila" which is "Gilead" from another perspective is going to be my second favourite. Probably has a lot to do with the likeability of the characters.

So if you ever felt like being all literary again in a Marilyn Robinson kind of way then "Gilead" would be the one.

Otherwise you should read "An Uncommon Reader" by Alan Bennett - which I also read at about the same time as my Marilyn Robinson phase. Given a conversation we had about the royal family at one time I think you would LOVE that one.

And while we are throwing confessions and absolutions about the place, I haven't listened to the song here. Don't think I probably can at the moment. But I think you would understand. And I think I understand why it caught you off guard too.


Deb said...

@ Meredith: I do feel better now. I have read "An Uncommon Reader" - I did enjoy that one! I shall think about another go at M.R. with Gilead next school holidays.

On being caught off guard... it's funny isn't it? I go off at the strangest things. Things which aren't really things. And I had the most vivid dream the other night that, although she was gone, I could still ring her on the phone and chat whenever I wanted to. Sigh. But I can't.

Karen said...

Gilead is our September Book Club book. I have been told it is a slower paced book than many of the others we have read for Book Club. I will keep you posted on how I go :) Might even manage a blog post on it...stranger things have happened!?

Deb said...

@ Karen: Totally have to hear what you think of it!!!