Sunday, August 07, 2005


Marilynne Robinson's
Gilead (2004)

MARILYNNE ROBINSON won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her long-awaited second novel Gilead (2004), an elegiac and spiritual meditation (in the form of a long letter) between John Ames, an elderly, dying preacher, and the son he will never see grow up, in the dry, dusty prairie town of Gilead, Iowa, “a dogged little outpost in the sand hills, within striking distance of Kansas”. Robinson's début novel, Housekeeping (1980), a haunting, poetic evocation of existential solitude set against the backdrop of rural Idaho in the mid-1900s, is regarded by many as a modern American classic. (Gilead is also the winner of the 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and has been shortlisted for the 2004 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction.) With Gilead, which has been called “a masterly study of the dying of the light,” Robinson has produced another modern American classic.

The years between her husband's death and her eldest daughter's leaving home were, in fact, years of almost perfect serenity. My grandfather had sometimes spoken of disappointment. With him gone they were cut free from the troublesome possibility of success, recognition, advancement. They had no reason to look forward, nothing to regret. Their lives spun off the tilting world like thread off a spindle, breakfast time, suppertime, lilac time, apple time. If heaven was to be this world purged of disaster and nuisance, if immortality was to be this life held in poise and arrest, and if this world purged and this life unconsuming could be thought of as world and life restored to their proper natures, it is no wonder that five serene, eventless years lulled my grandmother into forgetting what she should never have forgotten. Marilynne Robinson, in Gilead (2004)

ROBINSON Marilynne [1943-] Novelist, essayist. Born Marilynne Summers in Sandpoint, Idaho. NOVELS Gilead (2004: winner of the 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and the 2005 Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction; shortlisted for the 2005 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction); Housekeeping (1980: winner of the 1981 PEN/Hemingway Award for First Fiction; shortlisted for the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 1982 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction) NONFICTION The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought (1998: awarded the PEN/Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay); Mother Country: Britain, the Welfare State and Nuclear Pollution (1989: shortlisted for the 1989 National Book Award for Nonfiction)


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