I haven’t read any of Marilynne Robinson’s novels and I am not sure I ever will. As I understand her work, there is a religious overtone to her tales and that rarely finds a receptive audience with me. But I did enjoy reading her recent interview in the Paris Review, No. 198.
I also learned from her views on writing and the writing life she lives. Perhaps you can glimpse why from the following passages I collected. When I review them, as I did now, I'm no longer quite so sure I won't be reading her novels after all. Much of what she says rings true to me. Perhaps that might also be the case with her works of fiction.
I have this sense of urgency about what I want to get done and I discipline myself by keeping to myself.
Teaching is a distraction and a burden, but it’s also an incredible stimulus. And a reprieve, in a way. When you’re trying to work on something and it’s not going anywhere, you can go to school and there’s a two-and-a-half-hour block of time in which you can accomplish something.
The characters that interest me are the ones that seem to pose questions in my own thinking.
Q: Does writing come easily to you?
A: The difficulty of it cannot be overstated. But at its best, it involves a state of concentration that is a satisfying experience, no matter how difficult or frustrating. The sense of being focused like that is a marvelous feeling. It’s one of the reasons I’m so willing to seclude myself and am a little bit grouchy when I have to deal with the reasonable expectations of the world.
I’m kind of a solitary. This would not satisfy everyone’s hopes, but for me it’s a lovely thing. I recognize the satisfactions of a more socially enmeshed existence that I cultivate, but I go days without hearing another human voice and never notice it. I never fear it. The only thing I fear is the intensity of my attachment to it. It’s a predisposition in my family. My brother is a solitary. My mother is a solitary. I grew up with the confidence that the greatest privilege was to be alone and have all the time you wanted. That was the cream of existence. I owe everything that I have done to the fact that I am very much at ease being alone. It’s a good predisposition in a writer. And books are good company. Nothing is more human than a book.
Frankly you get to a certain point in your life where you can do unusual things with your mind. So then, I think, do them.