Sunday, August 03, 2008

Sunday salon 3 August 2008. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.

Well, I've had a great literary week, with a short interview with Elaine Feinstein on Monday, chasing after scenes from Alan Wall's new book, SYLVIE'S RIDDLE on Thursday, and on Friday having a wonderful lunch in London with Eli Gottlieb - author of the poignant, absorbing and beautifully-written 'NOW YOU SEE HIM'. I hope to write more about that later - once I have received permission to post some pictures.

But at the moment I am reading GILEAD by Marilynne Robinson. This was a book recommended to me by Adele Geras. It is an unusual book, written in the voice of an old preacher who feels his days are numbered. He meanders on, recounting past events, some of the tales so circuitous that they seem to fold on top of themselves; threads are lost are then picked up and developed a little really does give the impression of age, and also wisdom. There are no chapters, few breaks, there are sometimes references to small events going on around him, but but mostly it is the old man's memories.

This may not sound particularly riveting, but it is. Despite the obvious differences in setting, time and just about everything else, I feel there is a similarity between this book and McCarthy's THE ROAD. In both cases the narrative is unrelenting and the overall effect is oddly mesmerising. I keep turning the pages, and I am not sure why. Nothing exciting happens. The insights are undramatic. I haven't yet come across a passage I feel I need to shove in front of Hodmandod Senior's face and demand that he reads it too...

Even so I read on very happily with the strong impression that I am learning some great truth, which will only become apparent at the end.

I wonder if I'm right.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was completely bowled over by this book, so I'm really glad you're enjoying it. Except 'enjoy' doesn't quite seem the right word. It almost lessens the experience. I read it when it first came out and I'm stil haunted by it daily.

Sun Aug 03, 01:32:00 pm  
Blogger jem said...

I'll be interested to see if you find your great truth. I felt fairly swept along by 'Gilead' but strangely empty by the end. It might be something to do with a barrier of faith than I am unable to cross.

Sun Aug 03, 01:33:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Yes, Table Talk, I agree, sometimes 'enjoy' seems too trivial a word.

Jem: I suppose I should have realised it was about faith given that I believe Marilynne Robinson wrote a polemic to Richard Dawkins's book. I am more intrigued than ever now!

Sun Aug 03, 02:17:00 pm  
Blogger John (@bookdreamer) said...

I borrowed it from the library when it came, paid three weeks of fines and still didn't read it...sigh.
My Sunday Salon Post

Sun Aug 03, 09:22:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Ah, I do that too, John - very annoying.

Sun Aug 03, 09:27:00 pm  
Blogger Anne S said...

I have heard of this book and I know it highly thought of in literati circles.

Your comparison of it to The Road actually piqued my interest so I will hunt it out here in Melbourne, if not Amazon.

Mon Aug 04, 09:09:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Hi Anne, it is a great book. I'm glad you're going to take a look - it'll be interesting to see if you think so too.

Mon Aug 04, 01:44:00 pm  
Blogger Monster Paperbag said...

This is one of the most poignantly beautiful books I've ever read. Really inspiring.

Thu Aug 07, 10:23:00 am  
Blogger Andrew said...

I've seen it highly recommended, but having picked it up a few times & read a page o two, I'm afraid I'm put off by what I expereicne as a kind of viscous, syrupy preciousness to the writing, if that evokes at all what I mean. I tend to have almost allergic reactions with art.

Fri Aug 08, 10:27:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

I took a few pages to get into it, Andrew K, but after a while it becomes oddly mesmerising. I'm about half way through now (I'm a slow reader)and when I'm not reading it, long to get back into its pages.

I'm not really inspired yet, Monster P, but maybe that comes at the end.

Fri Aug 08, 11:47:00 am  

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