Day: January 31, 2012

Halfway through Housekeeping

Really, I’m in no hurry – Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

It’s been a while since I last read a book with both caution and urgency. It’s weird, I know, but having experienced the beautiful prose of Robinson before makes me want to jump ahead the paragraphs to know what will happen next and, at the same time, to control myself lest I miss the mindless sentences that are rendered remarkable by the author’s talent. I’m a little behind on my reading schedule, but I don’t mind slowing down on this book.

But still, I can’t help asking why have I only read this book just now.

Really, the words are simple. She knits them together with such precision that it can be possible for a novel of minimal breadth to be read for days and days, just for the sheer delight of reading. I do not mind that nothing is really going on in the book, which is about the narrator Ruth and her sister Lucille left under the care of, first, their grandmother, then their great aunts, and finally, their aunt Sylvie. We watch them as the winters pass them by, blizzard or no blizzard. We listen to the groaning mountains, cracking ice, lapping waves of the lake at Fingerbone. We smell flood water, burned candle wick, buttered toast.

We are housekeeping with them.

In this household, time seems to roll by slowly. I do not think fans of plot-driven novels with a grand design behind would look forward to this, but this novel has to be largely credited for its ability to create vivid images inside your head and to think that you are acquainted with the characters, like an old neighbor or a distant relative. I think that this kind of writing is more valuable than the too contrived plot. Just take a look at this:

At the foot of the page was printed, in italics, I will make you fishers of men. This document explained my aunt Molly’s departure to my whole satisfaction. Even now I always imagine her leaning from the low side of some small boat, dropping her net through the spumy billows of the upper air. Her net would sweep the turning world unremarked as a wind in the grass, and when she began to pull it in, perhaps in a pell-mell ascension of formal gentlemen and thin pigs and old women and odd socks that would astonish this lower world, she would gather the net, so easily, until the very burden itself lay all in a heap just under the surface. One last pull of measureless power and ease would spill her catch into the boat, gasping and amazed, gleaming rainbows in the rarer light.

This is just one of those narratives that I wouldn’t sacrifice for speed and that I would be willing to reread. Note that there are no grand words used. And also note that it isn’t really necessary to put these sentences in the book just to build something up. And the funny thing is you expect to find more of these little surprises.

I want to finish the day early so that I could go back to this book. I’m reading this, in spirit, with Fully Booked .Me’s blogger. Watch out for what he has to say.

Date Started: January 30, 2012. 7:15 PM. Book #04 of 2012.