Gilead

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Gilead

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1nperrin
Dez 20, 2007, 2:50pm

I was talking about Gilead by Marilynne Robinson a little on the Clunkers of 2007 thread, and I thought it would be a good one to post here.

I thought the narrator was completely bland and boring, thought the same about his wife although it was vaguely creepy how young she was, and thought his son, the addressee of the novel, hadn't been given any personality at all. I remember enjoying the parts about the narrator's father, but little else. The writing was good but not good enough to make up for the fact that there was nothing else there. Cariola suggested many people may have been into "the spiritual hook" (which I would say was pretty weak), but doubted that this would have made the critics rave the way they did.

So, can someone explain it to me?

2enevada
Dez 20, 2007, 2:59pm

I can't. It read like tapioca to me.

Couldn't help comparing it to Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop, the measure for me on books about religious introspection.

3enevada
Dez 20, 2007, 3:11pm

I thought Housekeeping over-rated as well. Gloomy, passive, dull.

4nperrin
Dez 20, 2007, 3:19pm

Hmm. Before reading Gilead, I had had big plans for reading Housekeeping since everyone seemed to love that. But afterward I had little desire to read another Marilynne Robinson, but have wondered since whether Housekeeping was very different. Maybe not.

5enevada
Dez 20, 2007, 3:34pm

nperrin, I think, you a reader of Nabokov, which suggests an active reader - Robinson, in my view, is a writer for passive readers, those who like to be told stories but aren't asked to do much.

ADHD readers (I'm one, too) get bored easily. (Send us to the back of the class room with a dog-eared copy of Pale Fire and we'll stay quiet, I promise)

6dchaikin
Dez 20, 2007, 3:43pm

Well, I liked it, but I wish my memory was clearer. The narrator is battling his own history. It does pale in comparison to his father and grandfather, and that is part of his quandary. How can he justify his essentially not leaving his mark?

So, yes, he is kind of bland, and that is the entry to the story. He used his life to focus on the small things and the individual, something his father/grandfather did not do. And, in this he is an artist of sorts. I guess I found something of value in there, and in his reflections on it, and in how it plays out with his "current" story.

7enevada
Dez 20, 2007, 3:48pm

"but I wish my memory was clearer"

That's a funny (if unintentionally revealing) comment - her books leave just a vague smudge of something in my mind too - but I don't think it's us...

8Nickelini
Dez 20, 2007, 3:57pm

I liked it, but I don't understand why it won the Pulitzer Prize.

I liked the narrator quite a bit, actually. He was extremely gentle, which is a personality trait I need to work on, so I guess I admired something in him that is unlike me (or not natural for me). The other thing I liked about him is that he didn't have all the answers. He was a refreshing contrast to religious people who "know the truth" and are always unwaivering in their faith. I thought it was far more interesting that after a lifetime of being a minister, he did waiver and question.

I know quite a few people who read this book and thought is was a tremendous bore. I can see their point, but I just put myself in a very quiet mood, and it worked for me okay. And I like Nabokov too, so the active/passive analogy doesn't fit for me. I actually actively had to make myself quiet to read this one, I guess.

But yeah, why a prize winner? I don't know.

9LynnB
Ago 22, 2011, 7:10pm

I didn't get it at all, either. But Housekeeping is very, very different. I loved that one.

10ShadowCandy
Ago 29, 2011, 3:25pm

It's a beautiful book because it's not about story. It's about the writing. The writing is tremendous; understated and yet absolutely gorgeous. I re-read passages over and over again just so I could relive them again and again. I think if you read Gilead and get focused on the story then you're losing the point. It's about the writing.

11LynnB
Set 1, 2011, 11:17pm

ok, I guess. I appreciate good writing, but want a story to go with it. Like a well-presented meal still has to taste good!

12ShadowCandy
Set 2, 2011, 6:55pm

That's fair. I guess where I stand is I'd rather have a lackluster story with beautiful writing over a good story with terrible writing. But that's just me! :-)

13timspalding
Set 2, 2011, 8:42pm

I loved the writing, and liked the general feel of the thing—it helps I sympathize with the religion—but having no absolute reason to keep reading I read about 2/3 of it and then found I hadn't read from it for a week or two, and left it.

14dchaikin
Set 2, 2011, 10:40pm

It seems too simplified to break a book down into writing, feel and story...at least here it does with this book. There are layers to unravel here, maybe an author struggling at the edge of a conflicting (religious) idea. It's a complex little book, maybe one that needs to be read a few times.

15LynnB
Set 3, 2011, 6:08pm

There was a follow-up to Gilead called Home which worked better for me.

16Dilara86
Ago 4, 2012, 5:12pm

I'm half-way through Gilead, and liking it a lot. There's probably a lot about American history and religious minutiae I don't get as well as a "native" would, but Wikipedia's helping... However, something's been niggling at me, and googling it is futile. It's completely trivial, but I'd be grateful if someone could explain why bean salads are "distinctly Presbyterian"?!

17Sandydog1
Editado: Jul 1, 2014, 12:32am

OMG. I'm two-thirds through. I don't even find my own paternal heritage that interesting, let alone that of these destitute hick Bible cultists. YAWWWNN....

I am very impressed however, of her knowledge of this "subject", and am told her previous novel is excellent.