Marilynne Robinson is one of the greatest American novelists alive today. She’s the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Gilead — one of my favorite books ever — as well as Housekeeping, Home, Lila, and her latest, Jack. She’s also produced four brilliant collections of nonfiction essays.
But Robinson is not simply a beautiful writer; her work is inextricably bound up with the most important issues of our time — race, religion, education, geography, democracy — so much so that in 2015, Barack Obama chose to interview her on the state of the country while he was still the sitting president. This conversation on The Ezra Klein Show was a joy to have right now, and it covers vast amounts of ground, including:
• Robinson’s obsession with the doctrine of predestination
• What we know — and all we don’t know — about the nature of reality
• The power of loneliness
• How, for all the talk of polarization, there are certain ideas that Americans widely, quietly share
• How the logic of efficiency and growth has come to invade every aspect of our lives
• The differences between writing fiction and nonfiction
• How to train yourself to notice the world around you
• The sobering purpose of studying history
• What it will take to keep American democracy alive and well
• The particular problem that Donald Trump poses
• The baseline assumptions and practices a democracy demands we share
And much more. I found this conversation a tonic to have in this moment. I hope it’s the same for you.
My conversation with Robinson can be heard on The Ezra Klein Show.