Robinson describes Housekeeping as a Western—and in fact all of her novels can be thought of as reconfigured members of that tradition, outlaw stories moved from the nineteenth-century borderlands to the notionally stable Union of the 1950s. Like many Westerns, the four books revolve around questions of kinship. But their relocation in time from an “open” country to a “finished” one is symbolic, because the questions they ask aren’t typically to do with the creation of new communities but with what loyalty to an old and limited—and possibly dying—home might entail.
It’s an extraordinary choice to write a book explaining the events of 2008 that asks its readers to root for a group of millionaires, let alone millionaires who spent several years hoping for the collapse of the economy so they could become richer still. It’s even more extraordinary that, of all the explanations of the financial crisis, Lewis’s is the narrative that has turned out to have the greatest public appeal.
Art changes all the time, and when it changes, so does its history. … The word “selfie” only dates back to 2002, when it was coined on an Australian internet forum (and what an antique wind already blows from that word ‘forum’) by a clumsy drunk who took a photo of himself after tripping over a staircase at a friend’s twenty-first birthday party, and it hasn’t been in widespread use for more than a few years. By 2013 it was the Oxford English Dictionary’s word-of-the-year. By now, in 2016, the selfie is as common as water, responsible for a clutch of hideous gadgets as well as several dozen fatalities: a plane crash, a boat capsizing and at least one (alleged) dolphin murder.
We know that the disasters of war overwhelmingly unfold elsewhere, that our lives are safer and more sheltered than they’ve ever been, and yet a crowded subway entrance, an airport terminal check-in desk, anywhere the density of human traffic accrues, is liable to provoke an invisible wrinkle of dread. … We live in a state of passive suspense, like Goya’s figure of Reason, who sleeps seemingly at ease as the monsters of Superstition and Folly crouch over him and close in from above.