MeTa Book Club Does Housekeeping May 5, 2011 11:31 AM   Subscribe

Respected writer Marilynn Robinson's first novel, Housekeeping, won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN award for best first novel in 1982, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer for fiction that year. (Robinson received the Pulitzer in 2005 for Gilead.)

The Guardian Unlimited listed Housekeeping in 2003 as one of the greatest 100 novels, describing it as a "[h]aunting, poetic story, drowned in water and light, about three generations of women" and Time Magazine included it in a similar enumeration of greatest novels. The book was also adopted into an obscure, but apparently wonderful film of the same name released in 1987.

Have you read it? Whether you have or not, please consider reading or re-reading a copy and joining the MeTa Book Club at on June 21, as we discuss the book and the two lectures on it by Yale Professor Amy Hungerford. If you have questions about the MeTa Book Club, we hope this wiki link, also included in the sidebar on this page, is helpful.
posted by bearwife to MetaFilter-Related at 11:31 AM (20 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Sorry, that's where you want to come discuss this book, not!
posted by bearwife at 11:39 AM on May 5, 2011

I thought "Housekeeping" was tremendous. I thought "Gilead" was so miserably tedious I couldn't finish it, even though I gave it far more effort than I would have done had I not thought that "Housekeeping" was tremendous. And then I read Robinson's opinion of atheists and decided she was probably off my radar for the rest of my life.

One hit wonder.
posted by Decani at 12:27 PM on May 5, 2011

I didn't like Gilead either. Not one bit. I gave it up about halfway in.

On the other hand, I didn't realize what a serious Catholic Flannery O'Connor was until I re-read Wise Blood for the MeTa book club, and reviewed the accompanying Hungerford lectures, which focused on on faith and literary interpretation. So despite Robinson's religiosity I'm OK with giving Housekeeping a shot.

Come visit the thread, Decani. Would love to get your thoughts.
posted by bearwife at 1:04 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wow, I liked Housekeeping but found it overwritten in too many parts. I thought Gilead was brilliant, really just superb.
posted by OmieWise at 1:41 PM on May 5, 2011

I loved Gilead. Weird.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:48 PM on May 5, 2011

Housekeeping is great but I read it too long ago (10 years or so) to be able to discuss it in any kind of detail, and there are too many books on my to-read list to consider returning to it.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:14 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I really loved Housekeeping, and I thought Gilead was brilliant and moving. But then, my family is from a small dying town in Iowa, so.
posted by Malla at 2:26 PM on May 5, 2011

Count me in OmieWise's camp. Housekeeping read too much like a writing-class exercise, but Gilead was subtle and wonderful and deeply, deeply moving for me even though I'm completely nonreligious.
posted by joyceanmachine at 2:54 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I love her Absence of Mind.
posted by Obscure Reference at 3:10 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

One hit wonder.

Says the None Hit Wonder.
posted by jonmc at 5:06 PM on May 5, 2011

Wow, I've seen the movie of Housekeeping so many times I can practically replay it on my closed eyelids. I didn't realize it had disappeared. It's a really wonderful film that captures the themes and the tone of the book perfectly; it's that rare example of a film made from a book that enhances the book. The book and the movie seem to speak to each other so well that they're like halves of a whole--you love and understand the book more after seeing the movie.

The reviewer at that link is wrong, though. It's absolutely clear in the novel that Sylvie and Ruth survive and go on to live on the road for a long time, moving from place to place as they begin to get too well known where they are. You need that sense of a long time passing for the perfect and devastating final line of the novel to do its work.

Obscure Reference, I bow to you. I've always found Robinson's essays impenetrable.

I remember when I was working on my MFA, one of the students in my program knew Robinson. This was early 90s, so Housekeeping had been out for awhile. I said that I was looking forward to her next novel, and this woman said that Robinson wasn't working on one and had no plans to write one, that she was busy with other things. When Gilead finally came out I was excited, but it took twice through the book for me to see its merits. And I didn't care for Home when it came out, but perhaps it, too, will improve on a second reading.
posted by not that girl at 5:23 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh hell yes.
posted by selfmedicating at 5:53 PM on May 5, 2011

I just picked up a copy at my favorite second-hand bookstore. I've been meaning to read Housekeeping for over a decade, so I'm really looking forward to this discussion.
posted by EvaDestruction at 5:55 PM on May 5, 2011

Wait. Why is this here?
posted by crunchland at 5:56 PM on May 5, 2011

Yeah, Housekeeping was a revelation. It was so good that then and forever I forgive her for all her other crap.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 6:07 PM on May 5, 2011

Darn, this post makes me realize I missed the last book club, which I really wanted to participate in. Is there any sort of reminder system? Could there be?
posted by lesli212 at 6:17 PM on May 5, 2011

Yes, there is a little reminder system. Memail me your regular email address and I'll add you to our little listserv. Also, you can always check the wiki via the link labeled "MeTa Book Club" on the sidebar of the gray. I used to do reminders on MetaTalk, but it drove some non-book club people nuts, so the consensus in the end was that I'd put notifications up here only once a month.
posted by bearwife at 10:48 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ha, I was totally going to Ask MetaFilter in the near future "what obscure 1980's/1990's movie am I remembering that took place in the Pacific Northwest, with an aunt and two nieces, set in the 1950's?". Now I know, and I didn't even have to use up a question! Thanks!
posted by Asparagirl at 9:26 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sweet! I read Housekeeping many years ago and put it on my list of All Time Favorites. I'm interested to see how I like it now. I bought a used copy of the movie on VHS a few months ago, just to know I have it. Haven't watched it yet; I'm saving it for a lift on the grayest, rainiest day of the year.
posted by Corvid at 7:46 PM on May 6, 2011

Oh sweet! I read Housekeeping last year based on a recommendation in an AskMe thread, I think I will try to also watch the movie before this discussion.
posted by cali at 9:55 PM on May 6, 2011

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