I told you last night that I might be gone sometime…
In a special audio recording commissioned by 92Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center, Ethan Hawke reads Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, a contemporary American classic of family and faith, gravity and grace, that unfolds as a long love letter from an old preacher to his young son.
The recorded reading is an abridgment of the novel. It is divided into five episodes and runs approximately three hours.
For Hawke, breathing life into the world of the old preacher, Reverend John Ames, was both a passion project and tribute to a favorite author. “Gilead has always been deeply moving to me. You leave the book feeling grateful for being alive,” he said. “The world feels so rocky right now. It's kind of nice to have Robinson’s peace—to touch it like a stone.”
Timely and timeless, Gilead is also Reverend Ames’s meditation on how the clashing spiritual and political convictions of his own father and grandfather mirror the country’s troubled history from the Civil War to the dawn of the civil-rights movement. “It is sometimes mistaken for nothing more than a plainspoken novel about good-hearted religious people in a small Midwestern town,” wrote Casey Cep. “But, in reality, it is the morally demanding result of Robinson’s encounter with the abolitionists. Something always comes between fathers and sons, but what divides these two has divided all of Christendom: whether to turn our swords into plowshares or take them up in a just war.”
This reading, endowed in memory of James and Alice Greenwood, was originally meant to take place before a live audience in 92Y’s Kaufmann Concert Hall, following recent literary performances of Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America, Toni Morrison’s The Source of Self-Regard and Don DeLillo’s “Pafko at the Wall.”
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson is published in print by Farrar, Straus & Giroux and published in audio by Macmillan Audio. Copyright Marilynne Robinson © 2004, (p) Macmillan Audio 2020.
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