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Pulitzer-winning author visits BU

Nov. 19, 2010

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Nick Berryman | Lariat Photographer
Marilynne Robinson speaks to students and teachers Thursday in Carroll Science Building.

By Sara Tirrito
Staff Writer

Marilynn Robinson, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "Gilead," will host a book signing from 3 to 4:30 p.m. today in the lobby of Moody Library.

Robinson has been on campus since Wednesday, engaging with students, faculty and staff both in and out of the classroom. On Thursday night, Robinson spoke to the Baylor community about "Writing as an Act of Faith."

Robinson said various aspects of writing are acts of faith.

One such act of faith comes when a person follows their vocation or what they feel deeply called to do, even when it is difficult, Robinson said.

"I think whenever you're about to do something original, you are working against the odds because originality is extremely difficult, but at the same time it's what you have," Robinson said. "Anything that's done with the full use of your resources is something unique in the world."

Robinson said people often feel they have to be in control of their lives and conform to a work ethic model, but even failure can be positive in the sense that it allows a writer to examine his or her own life.

"If you write a book that fails, or appears likely to be a tremendous failure, you have to have in any case -- if you have been scrupulous in the writing -- a very profound encounter with your own life," Robinson said.

It is also important for American writers to realize that their work has a global impact, and to be faithful to the high standards that have been set by previous American writers, Robinson said.

"This is another reason of course why we should think carefully about the quality of what we do," Robinson said. "We're read all over the globe. And the impact that we have is meaningful. It is either a contribution to the rest of the world, an insult to the rest of the world or a distraction to the rest of the world."

Robinson was brought to Baylor as part of the Intersection Lecture Series, hosted by the Honors College and Student Activities.

"Gilead," about a small-town pastor who knows he is dying of a heart condition, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005.

Dr. Sarah-Jane Murray, associate professor of the great texts program in the Honors College, said she was glad to hear Robinson speak at Baylor because Robinson's work is so intertwined with her faith and with finding meaning in life.

"One of the things that is so significant about Marilynn's work is that she invites us to find great meaning and transcendentals in everyday life," Murray said. "So I wasn't interested in Marilynn's speaking here tonight because she has a Pulitzer Prize, I was interested in Marilynn's speaking here tonight because she is one of the authors I think in the world who writes from her heart and from her faith and inspires the people who read her to become better people in reality."

Tanner Vickers, graduate apprentice for partner programs in the department of student activities, said Student Activities and the Honor College want to bring in speakers who have diverse experience and wisdom to share with students, and Robinson was a good fit for the series.

"She's an exemplary author. She's a fantastic individual," Vickers said.

"She has relevant things to say to students and has much to offer to students just overall through conversation, through the lecture, through her writing."