When the fiction nominees were announced, there was much grumbling about their samenessÃ¢â‚¬â€all women, all living in New York City, all little-known names. But the minor resemblances of sex and city are nothing next to what really makes this one of the least varied lists of nominees in recent years: a short-story aesthetic. Not one of these books is big and sprawling. And not one has much of a sense of humor.
Our Girl in Chicago evaluates James’ argument in light of the Great Snark Debate, and approves of it. Ron Hogan of Beatrice, meanwhile, presses on with his NBA interviews, this time with Joan Silber and Lily Tuck.
Gilead contains a lot of abstract theological rumination. The minister’s obsessions are Robinson’s own, a sense we have less from Housekeeping‘s elegant and elliptical religious references than from her book of essays, The Death of Adam (1998). [The protagonist] takes a commonsense but fresh approach to the varieties of religious experience. He begins one idea with the suggestion “If you think how a thing we call a stone differs from a thing we call a dream . . . . ,” offered to support the plausibility of the existence of God. The line could easily have come from one of Robinson’s essays.
Marilynne Robinson obviously can write an extraordinary novel. Gilead raises the question of whether she really still wishes to. One hesitates to define Gilead exactly as a novel. It is a beautiful book of ideas.