Honor Thy Child

From the February 2015 Print Edition

Lila: A Novel
by marilynne robinson
farrar, straus and giroux, 272 pages, $26
Of Pieter Bruegel’s sixteenth-century de­­pic­­tion of Icarus crashing into the sea, W. H. Auden observes “how everything turns away / Quite leisurely from the disaster.” Bruegel’s painting shows a tragedy affecting no one but the boy with melted wings. The sun shines on as before; a ploughman looks down at his labor; a passing ship continues on its course, leaving Icarus to his fate. The “human position” of suffering, for Auden, is “in a corner, some untidy spot,” where anyone who has half a say in the matter will keep it out of sight and out of mind. How marvelously more than ­human, then, is the Christian approach to suffering. Those who mourn and despair, who hunger and fail and go without, are not only pulled in from the margins and made equal; they are exalted. A kindness to the least of these—and not just widows and orphans either, but also sinners and lepers—is to be counted as a kindness to God, until the last are made first. Continue Reading »

Pears Not Pixels

From the February 2014 Print Edition

Don’t be fooled by the slapstick comedy and the silly names, the labyrinthine plots that careen around and veer maddeningly toward irresolution and paranoia, the playful gags and the abundant nods to pop culture—or to stoner culture, for that matter. Thomas Pynchon writes serious ­moral fiction.Although his name has become a byword for postmodernism and impenetrable prose, Bleeding Edge makes clearer than ever before what has been true since the publication of V. half a century ago: Pynchon is a writer with a profound, unwavering moral vision and an abiding commitment to realism. Not the realism of a Balzac or a Howells, of course, but the kind employed by Dostoevsky and Flannery O’Connor, the kind that forgoes verisimilitude in favor of the fantastic and the grotesque in order to make a point about the nature of reality—what is real and enduring, and what isn’t. Continue Reading »