Thursday, February 8, 2024

Roxana Robinson

Roxana Robinson is the author of eleven books—seven novels, three collections of short stories, and the biography of Georgia O’Keeffe. Four of these were chosen as New York Times Notable Books, two as New York Times Editors’ Choices.

Her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s, Best American Short Stories, The Southampton Review, Ep!phany and elsewhere. Her work has been widely anthologized and broadcast on NPR. Her books have been published in England, France, Germany, Holland and Spain.

Robinson has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation and the MacDowell Colony, and she was named a Literary Lion by the New York Public Library. She has served on the Boards of PEN and the Authors Guild, and was the president of the Authors Guild. Robinson has received the Barnes and Noble “Writers for Writers Award,” given by Poets and Writers, and the Award for Distinguished Service to the Literary Community from the Authors Guild. She teaches in the MFA Program at Hunter College.

Robinson's new novel is Leaving.

Recently I asked the author about what she reading. Her reply:
I’ve just finished reading Trespasses, a debut novel by Louise Kennedy. Let me divide my comments in two, addressing first plot and then language. The story is set in Belfast during the 1970s, a time of bitter division between Protestants and Catholics, when violence of all sorts was the rule.

Cushla, the protagonist, is a teacher in her 20s, her family riven by the death of her father, the alcoholism of her mother, the knife-edge of politics that imperil her brother’s bar. She meets a lawyer twice her age, married, idealistic, and deeply embroiled in the Troubles. Cushla tries to care for her doomed mother, her desperate brother, her small students, while she becomes more and more engaged by her love affair with the lawyer. Irish stories are not often light-hearted, the endings are often dark, and so it is with this one.

But you should read it. Kennedy’s sentences are so beautiful, so deft and smooth and smart, sometimes so funny, they slice so easily into the thick rind of life, carving out just the tranches that we need for this or that. She sees so deeply into the heart of things – the way we can despair of someone and still love them, the way people are defined by their politics or status, but only partly, the way love enters into you and takes you whole.

The Irish are famous for the beauty of their language. I don’t mean to generalize, but they are so, and Kennedy is part of this sweeping statement. Her language is beautiful and wrenching, her way of looking at the world is deep and unflinching, and her heart is great. Reading the sentences alone would be pleasure enough, but Kennedy adds to this beauty the depth of her own soul.
Visit Roxana Robinson’s website.

The Page 69 Test: Cost.

My Book, The Movie: Cost.

The Page 69 Test: Sparta.

My Book, The Movie: Dawson's Fall.

The Page 69 Test: Dawson's Fall.

Q&A with Roxana Robinson.

--Marshal Zeringue