Among a long stretch of generally very satisfying reading lately (since about xmas week, and that makes sense, doesn't it? no better time of year for reading than this, when it's frigid outside and there's a fire in here and sleepy dogs with which to find an afternoon's fellowship of not moving) have been two books of essays, two very different books of essays. First was Katie Roiphe's In Praise of Messy Lives; the fact that Gawker seems to hate her is reason alone for me to love her. I didn't agree with everything in there, but agreed more often than not, and more than anything just like her attitude. And honestly, not to oversimplify, but has any great art ever come from a non-messy life? For real.
And then just the other day I finished When I Was A Child I Read Books by Marilynne Robinson, which, like much of what I eventually read, I bought when it was published a year ago but didn't find the right mood and moment until now. Although I haven't read her nonfiction before, I love Robinson's three novels, especially the more recent two. My friend Becky Sassi originally guided me to Robinson, and I remain thankful. Anyway, one passage from this new book of essays, just as a thought starter, and let me be clear I'm taking it completely out of context...this isn't an argument for or against what Robinson wrote, simply one out of context passage that got me thinking about what I like to read and what I like to write. Here it is:
"As a fiction writer I do have to deal with the nuts and bolts of temporal reality -- from time to time a character has to walk through a door and close it behind him, the creatures of imagination have to eat and sleep, as all other creatures do. I would have been a poet if I could, to have avoided this obligation to simulate the hourliness and dailiness of human life."
I love the nuts and bolts, myself. Take me through them. Show me how he lights his cigarette or how she scratches the itch on her wrist. Paint me the picture. Slow me down and make me see. For me, feeding the creatures of imagination is one of the most pleasurable aspects of being head zookeeper at this dysfunctional and questionable institution.