Thursday, November 6, 2008

Gilead and Home

When I read in an Obama interview last fall that Marilynne Robinson's Gilead was his current favorite book ("the language just shimmers") that was reason enough for me to take him very seriously. Anna had introduced me to the book, which is one of the very best, most touching novels I've read in a long time. A companion to Gilead, called Home, has just been published. You can about Gilead here. Here's the NYT book review of Home.

The story is grounded in the trajectory of the 19th century Abolitionist movement, and 20th century race in America, including bi-racial experience, a grounding which I only understand fully now. So these books must be extra special for Obama, I imagine, apart from the wonderful writing itself. They are great stories, I think, precisely because they effectively embed the personal into the larger history of racism, and faith, in America.


I've also read that Obama is an avid student of Lincoln.

Lincoln's whole political career spanned the years of our national crack-up on the shoals of slavery, imperialism (our war with Mexico), and economic expansion. Lincoln' own journey, reflected in his writings, articulated so much of what needed digesting and healing in his time (and still does in ours.) He was really a great man, through whom we can glimpse the limitations and transcendence that real life is all about.

Team of rivals Obama reportedly has read this lately. Discusses how Lincoln handled his first term.
Lincoln's First Inaugural
Lincoln's Second Inaugural
Lincoln on slavery: 1837-1865