#4: Housekeeping (1980), by Marilynne Robinson

If I had one particular complaint, it was that my life seemed composed entirely of expectation … just when I had got used to the limits and dimensions of one moment, I was expelled into the next and made to wonder again if any shapes hid in its shadows.


Marilynne Robinson’s literary biography is fascinating: With little fanfare, she publishes a quiet novel called Housekeeping in 1980, which threatens to be lost in the flood until Anatole Broyard of The New York Times bestows upon it a career-making lead review. The novel begins its shelf life as a modern classic, a finely-chiseled masterpiece that only gains in stature once Robinson ceases to publish more fiction for another 25 years. Robinson has since written two well-received novels (one of which won the Pulitzer Prize) and some works of nonfiction, but Housekeeping lingers as a found artifact, a novel critics and admirers have to figure out new ways to call beautiful. (Let’s see how many I can come up with.)

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