by Marilynne Robinson

If to admire and to be influenced are more or less the same thing, I must be influenced most deeply by the nineteenth-century Americans -- Dickinson, Melville, Thoreau, Whitman, Emerson and Poe. Nothing in literature appeals to me more than the rigor with which they fasten on problems of language and of consciousness -- bending form to their purposes, ransacking ordinary speech and common experience, rummaging through the exotic and recondite, setting Promethean doubts to hymn tunes, refining popular magazine tales into arabesques, pondering bean fields, celebrating the float and odor of hair, always, to borrow a phrase from Wallace Stevens, in the act of finding what will suffice. I think they must have believed that everything can be apprehended truly when it is seen in the light of an esthetic understanding appropriate to itself, whence their passion for making novel orders of disparate things. I believe they wished to declare the intrinsic dignity of all experience and to declare the senses bathed in revelation -- true, serious revelation, the kind that terrifies.

Of course, there are any number of ways to write and things to write about, and the world is richer for the fact. I happen to have read these old aunts and uncles at an impressionable age, and so I will always answer to them in my mind.

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