The Big Read Blog (Archive)

Marilynne Robinson's Saturated Language

Washington, DC


"lakeside" by eye of einstein via flickr

Although it was published in 1980, Housekeeping feels suspended in time, thanks in large part to Marilynne Robinson?s use of language. Dreamy and flowing, Robinson?s words are at once haunting and rhythmic, and prove as atmospheric to the novel as the setting or plot. Below, writer Pico Iyer discusses Robinson?s style:

"The style of the book itself is like a curious house on the edge of town. The words are not at all the words that you would hear in everyday life in America now. They?re saturated with allusions to flood and resurrection and afterlife. The diction is old fashioned and has a kind of musty attic quality to it. In that way, I think of the sentences as a kind of dusty chest you might find in a family attic where everything has this flavor of something old or odd. And there?s kind of hypnotic incantation to the sentences. They?re themselves working you up and transporting you and taking you into this other world. So in that way, I?m not sure if there?s a normal sentence in the whole book."

For more about Housekeeping and author Marilynne Robinson, please visit The Big Read website.

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