For your weekend reading pleasure, here are links to some pieces I've enjoyed the past week:
"This Blessed Place: The faithful fiction of Marilynne Robinson" by Angela Alaimo O'Donnell at America. Just this week I finished reading Lila, the latest novel by Marilynne Robinson in her Gilead trilogy that also includes Gilead and Home. Each of the three novels has left me with a profound sense of having entered a place that operates with a different sort of economy and grace than what we usually expect to encounter in life or on the page. I think this is even more true for Lila than the other two. As O'Donnell writes in this piece, "They posit a community of people who take their faith seriously and strive to live by it; they depict a fallen world, full of common sinners in need of redemption and in whose lives the operation of grace is evident at every turn; and they reveal the luminous beauty of that world, shot through with the goodness of the God who loved it into being and continues to care for it, in ways both large and small." Read this piece by O'Donnell and then if you haven't already read this trilogy, consider putting it high on your reading list.
"Mad Men: The Imperceptibility of Change" by Alissa Wilkinson at Christ & Pop Culture. I've been watching Mad Men throughout its seven seasons. Lots of people think it's full of so much debauchery that it's best left unwatched. I can understand that opinion and have felt that way myself at times. But my husband and I have stuck with the series, not only because it's been a fascinating cultural study of the era in which we grew up, but more so because we've come to care about the characters, particularly Don Draper and Peggy Olson, as obviously the show's creator does also. It's the genius of good fiction to be able to trigger empathy. As the series moves towards its last handful of episodes, the question on the table is, What will happen to these characters? In this piece, Wilkinson speculates on whether Mad Men will end as tragedy or as comedy. It's worth a read even if you don't watch Mad Men, because she provides a framework for thinking about other narratives, for thinking about life.
"Consider the Oven" by Sheryl Cornett at Art House America. Sheryl is a friend of mine and she just published this piece about making do. She tells of finally getting a new range in her kitchen after cooking on a make-shift out-of-code oven in her garage for 5 years, her tight-budget response to the breakdown of her initial range. It made me think about how wonderful it felt last fall when I finally had our dryer fixed after going 3 years hanging clothes on the line because it just always seemed there were more important places for money to go than the dryer. If you've ever had to or tried to "make-do", you'll resonate with this essay written in the spirit of gratitude.
"A Convention for the Bookish" by Dani Shapiro at The New Yorker. Last week, I attended the annual meeting of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP), which was here in Minneapolis. I heard figures of between 12,000 and 15,000 people attended (with those kinds of numbers, is it any wonder writers get so many rejections?). Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion and Still Writing, wrote this piece about the three-day event. "It’s a familiar lament that books are dying—that the fast-paced and attention-starved digital age is killing our impulse to read and write the old-fashioned way—but it was impossible to feel anything but buoyant optimism about the future of letters when traversing the streets and skyways of Minneapolis."
"The Fear Exemption: Clutching at any appearance of control" by D. L. Mayfield at Books & Culture. While at AWP, I bought a copy of On Immunity: An Innoculation by Eula Bliss at the Graywolf Press table. It's a book I've wanted to read ever since it came out last fall. In this piece, Mayfield reviews On Immunity, sharing her personal parenting fears in the process, fears to which anyone who has raised a child can relate.
And finally, since Finding Livelihood launched this week, here's the first review I saw pop up, written by Carrie Ann Lahain, a prolific book reviewer, and also a post about it from the book's editor, the lovely Jessica Snell.
[Photo: taken along a walking path one spring day several years ago; no flowers like this are up here yet this year.]