Housekeeping vs. Sludge

April 19, 2009 @ 2:11 pm | Filed under:

“I have always prized the accessible over the obscure, but after reading Housekeeping [by Marilynne Robinson] I can see that in some ways the easy, accessible novel is working at a disadvantage (not that Housekeeping is inaccessible, but it is deep and dark and rich): it’s possible to whiz through it without allowing it even to touch the sides, and a bit of side-touching has to happen if a book is going to be properly transformative. If you are so gripped by a book that you want to read it in the mythical single sitting, what chance has it got of making it all the way through the long march to your soul? It’ll get flushed out by something else before it’s even halfway there. The trouble is that most literary novels don’t do anything but touch the sides. They stick to them like sludge, and in the end you have to get the garden hose out. (I have no idea what that might mean. But I had to escape from the metaphor somehow.)”

—Nick Hornby, Housekeeping vs. the Dirt

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10 Reponses | Comments Feed
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    Willa says:

    Loved that! LOL.

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    MelanieB says:

    Oooh that’s good.

    I tend to be a gobble in one sitting kind of reader. But he’s right. That doesn’t really give a chance to stick. I know the ideal is probably to pace myself. Read many books at a time and read each one slowly so as to give each bit time to absorb. But that takes discipline. I only really tried it once with a novel when I read In This House of Brede. It was worth it, though I still think I need a re-read to really let the book stick.

    I loved the way he ended it… had to get out of the metaphor somehow. Priceless.

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    Amy C. says:

    Great quote. I’m normally a gluttonous type of reader, but this year for my lenten discipline I decided to read just one book and make it last throughout the season. It really was a transforming experience. (BTW, the book was Acedia & Me. Beautiful book.) And now that I’m delving back into my own TBR pile, I really feel more of a desire to savor what I’m reading.

    Though it is Easter now, feast-time, and I plan on indulging quite a bit in the books you’ve mentioned. Your book posts were quite a lenten temptation, but now they’re pure Easter joy!

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    Hannah says:

    That’s interesting because I’m actually in the middle of Housekeeping right now (the Robinson book, that is), and it’s slow going. It’s more of a book that I make myself pick up and read, but I’m counting on some side-touching going on.

    In a different — but not altogether so — way from my recent experience with reading Les Miserables. That one definitely made the long march to the soul. After 1260 pages, it had to!

    Have I earned myself a light read yet? Or should I call it, in Hornsby’s words, an accessible read?

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    Mary says:

    Loved that book.

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    Wendy Fairfull says:

    Thank you for “introducing” me to Nick Hornby. My family might not thank you as I am getting little done besides reading 🙂

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    Doug Mallar says:

    This an Great blog post, I will be sure to bookmark this in my Propeller account. Have a awesome evening.