LK Hunsaker's Reviews > When I Was a Child I Read Books

When I Was a Child I Read Books by Marilynne Robinson
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Mar 03, 2012

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Read from April 19 to August 19, 2012

I'm a huge fan of Robinson's fiction and can't wait for another. That said, some time back I started reading "The Death of Adam" and my brain nearly melted so I put it aside. When this one came out, I loved the title, so even knowing it was more essays, I had to give it a try. I'll say this: I did finish it.

I'm not an "easy read" type; I love classics. I've read many essays throughout college and on my own. I have no trouble with them. I have a decent vocabulary and good comprehension. Still, I had to read this in bits because it's a struggle. Robinson is very intelligent, yes, but part of being an intelligent author is writing to your audience. Don't overkill. Don't try to show how smart you are or how much you read. That should show in your ideas, not in complex rambling sentences and overused adjective-like phrasing that only competes with the sentence's thoughts and confuses the issue. Some of them quite frankly made no sense.

Other times, her ideas are simply so far out in left field I can't understand how she could come to such a conclusion. For instance, her insistence that there is no real need for competition is mind-boggling. (I should say here that much of it I read during commercials and slow times during baseball games.) No need for competition? That's far, far too fascist-leaning for my taste. How successful have the fascists been ... at anything?

There's also the broader statement within all of the essays that objects to narrow-mindedness and adherence to any certain belief as the detriment of "liberal" learning. And then again, she clings to Calvin as though he had all of the answers and no one should oppose him. At the same time she seems to be touting the incredible capacity of humans, she doesn't seem to think very highly of them in their present state.

I agree that education is in general too underwhelming, that we are capable of so much more, and that we should open our minds to greater possibilities. I agree we should not be dumbing down our instruction, but should instead be trying to raise it. I agree with many of her thoughts, and I appreciate the contemplation that went into each essay, but it feels narrow. It feels confined to her own experience, as though most of what she knows, she has learned from books. Book learning is wonderful, but it is not the end all and be all. There is so much to learn outside of books, in the nitty gritty of life, and none of that shows up here.

Overall, it's an upscale textbook that may stretch your brain and your patience, and possibly your vocabulary (even if it's good already), and it does present some very nice ideas and thoughts if you can get through the writing style to find them, but I have to say I look forward to her next novel.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Malla (new)

Malla Wow! Complex review! Not sure if I like the sound of it or not. I don't think I have your patience. I do admire how you tackle all kinds of books and work through them and give such deep insights to the writing. Thank you for this review, it was interesting.

message 2: by LK (new) - rated it 3 stars

LK Hunsaker Thank you, Malla! Let's see if I have the patience to finish the other I started and one I have I've yet to start. ;-) I do hope for another novel!

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