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President Obama interviews Marilynne Robinson

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Lunchtime Listen. Yes, you read that right: Listen to President Obama interview Marilynne Robinson, the author novels “Lila,” “Home,” “Gilead” (winner of the Pulitzer Prize), and “Housekeeping.” The conversation was recorded in in Des Moines, Iowa, on September 14, 2015. You can listen to it via iTunes on the The New York Review of Books podcast “Soundings” or read the text on the NYRB website.

Excerpts

The President: And how do you think you ended up thinking about democracy, writing, faith the way you do? How did that experience of growing up in a pretty small place in Idaho … end up here, Marilynne? What happened? Was it libraries?

Robinson: It was libraries, it was—people are so complicated. It’s like every new person is a completely new roll of the dice, right? .. I followed what was for me the path of least resistance, which meant reading a lot of books and writing, because it came naturally to me….

The President: You just have completed a series of essays … and I had a chance to read one of them about fear and the role that fear may be playing in our politics and our democracy and our culture.

Robinson: … fear was very much — is on my mind, because I think that the basis of democracy is the willingness to assume well about other people. You have to assume that basically people want to do the right thing. I think that you can look around society and see that basically people do the right thing. But when people begin to make these conspiracy theories and so on, that make it seem as if what is apparently good is in fact sinister, they never accept the argument that is made for a position that they don’t agree with—you know?

The President: Yes.

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