Thursday, January 13, 2011

Home for Robinson and Conoboy

I've just finished reading Marilynne Robinson's Home, and I'll hopefully get a proper review of it up by the weekend. I suspect, though, that I'm not the right person to review the novel because in too many ways I am Jack, the novel's central character (though certainly not its hero). It's a very painful book.

A few years ago I wrote a story which got the interest of a decent publication, who wanted to work with me to polish it to publishability. It didn't happen in the end - I couldn't quite work out what they wanted and they couldn't quite work out what I was saying - and I set the story aside, meaning to come back to it one day when I was ready to do it justice.

I probably don't need to now, because that story was Home. I hadn't read Home at the time I wrote my story, or any Marilynne Robinson, and chances are I hadn't even heard of her, but nonetheless my story and hers are essentially the same. Not in matters of plot, the incidentals, the events that unfold - those are completely different. But in the claustrophobia of familial relations where no relationship exists, in the incomprehending nature of love without emotional attachment, or connection without comfort, or compassion without understanding or home without hope. In the clash of characters who each want the best for the other but have no earthly understanding of how to achieve it, who can't even fabricate the best for themselves.

Home is an extraordinary novel. Partly, I hate it, and I am even more determined to write my own, secular version of it. But I know that it will be vastly inferior because mostly I think Marilynne Robinson is a genius.

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