Art Works Blog

Louise Erdrich & Marilynne Robinson Come to the Book Festival

This Saturday, not one, but TWO Big Read authors will be speaking at the 2015 National Book Festival in Washington, DC. Marilynne Robinson will discuss her latest novel, Lila, while Louise Erdrich, who recently received the 2015 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction, will reflect on her full body of work.

For a brief primer on the way these two women think and write, we’ve pulled together a few quotes from some of their recent interviews. After getting to know them, come on down and meet them in person this Saturday.

Need more reason to stop by? The NEA will also be hosting the Poetry and Prose Pavilion, featuring five NEA Literature Fellows and recitations by young poetry enthusiasts. See you there!

"I'm very interested in the musicality of language. I spend a lot of time just listening to Bach, just to hear how a sentence falls in a certain sense. So that's what I do: I hear what I write, but I don't speak it out loud. I hear it in my mind.” –Marilynne Robinson, NEA Big Read

"In the development of every character there’s a kind of emotional entanglement that occurs. The characters that interest me are the ones that seem to pose questions in my own thinking.” -Marilynne Robinson, The Paris Review

"I like dealing with people whose vocabulary and worldview is less media-saturated than ours is. I think that there is an acceleration of a kind of slang shorthand that is very characteristic of our period but not especially beautiful." -Marilynne Robinson, The Nation

"I do like quiet. It is the climate in which inwardness flourishes." -Marilynne Robinson, National Book Foundation 

"Fiction is to nonfiction as holograph to photograph. It is in its nature to embody complexity, antinomy, anomaly, contrariety, depth. It can achieve a palpable tension that is much closer to reality than any kind of resolution." -Marilynne Robinson, Vogue (October 6, 2014) 

"When I can’t end a story, I usually find that I’ve actually written past the ending. The trick of course is to go back and decide where the last line hits." –Louise Erdrich, The Paris Review

"What I see in the book is an exquisite form of technology, one that doesn’t require a power source and can be passed from hand to hand and lasts a lot longer than an electronic reader." -Louise Erdrich, PBS NewsHour (October 19, 2012)

"My characters have my attention—trying to find them, understand them, think like them, feel what they would feel, behave on the page as they would. And then there is the language—listening for what is unburdened by sentiment, trying to write something fearless. I usually write the books like secrets, as though nobody will read them." -Louise Erdrich, National Book Foundation 

"I write everything by hand and then I put everything into the computer. I like having the handwritten manuscripts. I have these black, artist’s spiral bound notebooks. So if I get lost in the murk, I can go back and look at my first impulse. I like going back and seeing the first impulse to write a piece." -Louise Erdrich, Chicago Tribune (October 5, 2012) 

"I really don’t feel pressure to write a certain way. That’s because I’m a very stubborn writer and I insist on writing whatever has to be written. The background of the characters doesn’t matter. I feel that if I started thinking about all the things that other people tell you to write about or do, I would’ve never written in the first place." -Louise Erdrich, Salon (May 6, 1996) 

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