First anniversary of this blog, and an interview with Iowa Writers’ Workshop teacher Marilynne Robinson


Well, apparently it’s the first birthday of this blog. How nice.
Some stats:

Today, 16 views so far from 16 visitors.
USA – 8
UK – 8
One each from Qatar, Germany, Italy, Austria and Netherlands.

Total 63 followers, total 187 comments.

Total of 3,936 views, best ever single day was 69 views (I think it was the letter from TS Eliot to V Woolf post. Stats went beserk that day and for several afterwards.)

My most popular posts are the 8 Mile one (I think it’s youngies googling 8 Mile or Eminem, or similar) and the Eliot/Woolf one.

The year has flown. I’ve been running my personal blog since 2005, so that is now past its 8th year, as of June this year. Cumulative stats over there, I’m closing in on 100K visits/views, and 864 posts. (Oops, just checked, 100,526 pageviews all time history, last month 4,000 views. Pity that’s not my author page. Oh well.)


Just read through a fascinating interview with Marilynne Robinson, writing teacher. It’s published in Vice and here is the link to the entire interview.

My notes on things that resonated:

She talks about trusting the ‘peripheral vision of our mind’:

I think it’s probably a lot like meditation… from what I understand, it is a capacity that develops itself and that people who practice it successfully have access to aspects of consciousness that they would not otherwise have. They find these large and authoritative experiences… things come to mind. Your mind makes selections — this deeper mind — on other terms than your front-office mind. You will remember that once, in sometime, in some place, you saw a person standing along, and their posture suggested to you an enormous narrative around them… If you’re philosophically attentive, you don’t need to seek these things out.

I love that. Your ‘front-office mind’, and the idea of finding ‘large and authoritative experiences.’

The interviewer refers to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours. I’ve come across this 10K hour concept before, several times, but didn’t know where it originated. Just googled him, here he is. I like his hair but maybe he got the 10,000 hours from somewhere else? (Just saying, he looks pretty young.) Anyway, the 10K hour thing goes like this: If you do something for ten thousand hours, you’ll  become an expert (is how I heard it from one teacher) but in the interview with Robinson, it’s ‘you’ll be good at it. Or good enough.’ And Robinson replies ‘The “good-enough” standard is not very desirable.’ I agree with that. You don’t work like a dog at your writing to become good enough.

Robinson, it seems, is drawn to male writers.

Q: What do you like so much about their writing?

I like the expansiveness of them. I like the scale at which they think. I mean, I’ve written books called Housekeeping and Home. And this is another reason I so love Emily Dickinson. You can look at things however microscopically and understand that there’s metonymy for the cosmos. But if you’re actually concerned with them in the little, that feels like horrible captivity to me. I just can’t stand it. I don’t like the novel-of-manners thing. If it doesn’t open on something larger, I get claustrophobic almost immediately.

Q: What about the way we think now troubles you?

I think that a lot of the energies of the 19thC, that could be fairly called democratic, have really ebbed away. That can alarm me. The tectonics are always very complex. But I think there are limits to how safe a progressive society can be when its conception of the individual seems to be shrinking and shrinking. It’s very hard to respect the rights of someone you do not respect. I think that we have almost taught ourselves to have a cynical view of other people. So much of the scientism I complain about is this reductionist notion that people are really very small and simple. That their motives, if you were truly aware of them, would not bring any credit. That’s so ugly. And so inimical to the best of everything we’ve tried to do as a civilisation and so consistent with the worst of everything we’ve ever done as a civilisation.’

On vices:

My most consistent impression of myself is lassitude. I say to myself “well, that’s just my deeper consciousness.” I remember once reading speculations about why creatures sleep. The one that impressed me was some scientist saying “It keeps the organism out of trouble.” So every once in a while I sit on the couch thinking I’m keeping myself out of trouble.

On an ideal day:

Aha! Rare. It’s generally when I have no demands being made of me — of any kind. I usually have a book or two I’m reading. I have a book or two that I’m writing. I like to be at home and have on my slovenly clothes… The bathrobe is a wonderful institution.


2 thoughts on “First anniversary of this blog, and an interview with Iowa Writers’ Workshop teacher Marilynne Robinson

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