What We’re Reading: Marilynne Robinson’s “Gilead”

We here at TTAF know that communal experience is one of the most valuable, enjoyable parts of life. A huge part of our vision for this site, in fact, involves providing an outlet for people who could use a community that functions, in part, like a whet stone for our minds, bodies, and souls. Having people with whom we can talk about everything from the concerning disappearance of go-kart tracks and laser tag facilities to politics to sports to parenting to life’s most enduring questions is, we think, an essential part of our development as friends, husbands, and fathers. Since we’re all aware of how pervasive the internet and, more specifically, social networking has become in our day-to-day lives, we thought that TTAF might to serve to fill a space which, to our minds, at least, has been left largely empty, even in the intensely overcrowded internet landscape. Basically, we want to be a place where guys can come and engage in the kind of mental and spiritual sharpening that we all need, and we want that to happen in as community-centered a way as is possible.

Community: like this, but without the aging racist!

One of the ways in which we envision the TTAF community growing is by engaging with as many people as we can in as many ways as we can. One such way is through books. If you’ve visited our site more than once (and honestly, probably if you’ve only been here once), you’ve likely seen a post devoted in some way to books and their myriad awesomenesses. As you may or may not know, the administrators meet at the TTAF Headquarters and Compound on Thursday nights to hang out, discuss top-secret TTAF business, and discuss a lot of the things mentioned above. In a time before TTAF existed, part of this meeting time was devoted to the discussion of a book, selected by the group, for the purpose of personal and communal edification. Past titles include N.T. Wright’s Simply Christian, Scott McKnight’s The Jesus Creed, and N.T. Wright’s Evil & Justice of God (I can only speak to the last one – it was really good – as the other two were read prior to my completion of the Vision Quest-style initiation ceremony required for admittance into the hot tub – don’t ask.). Now that the site has been operational for a while, we’re re-instituting the weekly book discussion, and we’d like as many people to be a part of it as possible.

Selection for the book fell to me this time and, perhaps predictably, I went with a novel (In fairness, I’m constantly looking for people upon whom I can foist novels I think they should read, and these guys just sat there and asked me to pick a book. What could they possibly expect?): Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2005 (Robinson also won the award for her 1978 novel Housekeeping; she only won the Orange Prize and was named a National Book Award finalist for her 2009 novel Home. Two out of three isn’t bad, though.) The novel is written as a letter from an aging father to his young son and acts as both family history and a prayer for his son’s future. I read the book for the first time while my wife was pregnant. Now that my son is three, I expect the book’s effect on me to be even more profound. I’ve been pushing it on people for years, and now I’m pushing it on you.

Currently, a used copy purchased via Amazon’s secondary market can run you as little as one cent (+ $3.99 shipping). I got two copies at my local Half-Price Books for $2.00 (each). There’s a Kindle edition, too. Oh, and libraries have it. If you’re a devout supporter of small business – or just independent bookstores – the go ahead a pony up the full price. Whatever your preferred method, get yourself a copy of the book and dive in with us. We’re starting the book this week, but to give interested parties just a little more time, our posts related to our reading will be one week delayed. Our first reading is pages 1-50 (there’s a break denoted with a short line at the top of page 51; that’s where we’ll stop this week), and at 256 pages, we should be finished after five weeks.

For the duration of our time with Gilead, our usual Friday at Five posts will be replaced with a post related in some way to the book. Could be a transcript of our discussion, could be a podcast, could be a filmed interpretative dance piece inspired by Iowa or abolitionism; we’re kind of making this up as we go. If I haven’t been clear, let me be now: we want you to pick up this book and read along with us. We want you to tell us what you think and join in the growth that things like this are meant to engender. We want you to think of TTAF as an extension of the communities you’ve already built into your lives or even the starting point for a new kind of community.

Our first three months have gone much better than we imagined, and that’s all thanks to you who have read and shared the site. The next part of TTAF’s life will also be shaped by you. We hope you’ll join in with what we’re doing. Thanks again.

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Categories: Outside of A Dog

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