Marilynne Robinson’s much-anticipated Lila returns to the small town in Iowa where two previous novels, Gilead and Home, were set – but this time, she focuses on the woman who drifted into the life of the much older Rev. John Ames and gave him an unexpected son. Reviewing the book, Leslie Jamison marvels at the story Robinson tells, which grapples with “what makes grace necessary at all—shame and its afterlife, loss and its residue, the limits and betrayals of intimacy”:

The novel weaves together two narrative threads: the present arc of courtship, marriage, and pregnancy; and the entire past life that delivered Lila to Ames’s church in the first place. Ames, marked by early grief after his first wife and their baby died in Lilachildbirth decades earlier, is no stranger to loss himself. “I had learned not to set my heart on anything,” he tells Lila, and she is drawn to this. “He looked as if he’d had his share of loneliness, and that was all right. It was one thing she understood about him.” When you’re scalded, touch hurts: one of the scalded recognizes another, and touches carefully, always. They are both haunted—Lila by the ghost of Doll, the wild woman who cared for her, and Ames by the specter of the life he never got to live with his first family. Part of the beauty of their bond is a mutual willingness to honor the integrity of their former lives. He prays for the “damned” souls of her past, and she begins to tend the grave of his late wife, clearing weeds and pruning the roses.

Lila takes as its core concern what might have constituted, in another narrative, a happy ending: two lonely souls who never expected happiness somehow finding it. But Robinson’s quest is to illuminate how fraught this happiness is, shadowed by fears of its dissolution and the perverse urge to hasten that dissolution before it arrives unbidden.

Jamison adds these thoughts about the grace suffusing Robinson’s writing:

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A reader adds to the natural gas thread:

The relative merits of methane, coal, and other energy sources should not be considered in a vacuum. As on practically any other issue, real-world practices and legal-institutional incentives have a great influence. The North Dakota energy boom is taking place in a location without the infrastructure (insufficient gas pipeline or local refining capacity) to make a lot of the natural gas yield usable – and without regulations requiring emissions capture. So a lot of the gas is being “flared” – burned off in the oilfields. This flaring adds CO2 to the atmosphere equivalent to that emitted from a million cars a year.

These pictures of the Bakken field from space are pretty dramatic.

Speaking of the Bakken region, Maya Rao took a job at a North Dakota truck stop this summer to get an inside look at booming regional economy and the motley cast of characters fueling it:

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The Best Of The Dish Today

Oct 1 2014 @ 9:00pm
by Dish Staff

Andrew is still on his speech circuit in California, so he’s not able to wrap up the Dish tonight. But if you missed his longer posts, Andrew, above all, laid into the president and various members of his administration for covering up alleged torture at Gitmo. He also took aim at the NYT’s sponsored content guru, Meredith Kopit Levienat, for spreading more “re-purposed bovine waste”, and then blasted Roger Cohen for playing the Godwin card with ISIS. But Andrew himself caught shit from readers over his incessant whining about NYC. More importantly, another reader shared a long and heartbreaking story of child abuse – a post that’s already getting a lot of feedback from readers, so stay tuned for followups.

Many of today’s posts were updated with your emails – read them all here. You can always leave your unfiltered comments at our Facebook page and @sullydish. 21 more readers became subscribers today. You can join them here – and get access to all the readons and Deep Dish – for a little as $1.99 month. One writes:

I finally subscribed. Despite some gripes, your coverage of Obama’s war on ISIS finally did it. Excellent debate.

(If I may put in a small gripe/request on the side: can we please do without horse-race speculation of the “Hillary vs X” type until we actually have declared candidates? Please? Honestly don’t give a hoot about hypotheticals. It’s just noise. Let’s focus on actual events.)

Much more Dish in the morning.

Marijuana Is Good Medicine

Oct 1 2014 @ 8:35pm

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 29:   A man purchases medical marijuana,

In a survey, 92 percent of medical marijuana patients said it “alleviated symptoms of their serious medical conditions, including chronic pain, arthritis, migraine, and cancer”:

“Our study contradicts commonly held beliefs that medical marijuana is being overused by healthy individuals,” the authors write. “The most common reasons for use include medical conditions for which mainstream treatments may not exist, such as for migraines, or may not be effective, including for chronic pain and cancer.”

In considering the efficacy of any kind of medical treatment, we should listen first and foremost to the patients. The debate over medical marijuana has largely been dominated by vested interests and advocacy groups on either side – patients’ voices have been either silent or ignored completely.

This study provides a helpful corrective, and in this case the patients are speaking loud and clear in near-unanimity: medical marijuana works.

(Photo: A man purchases medical marijuana, the first legal sale, at Capital City Care in Washington, DC on July 29, 2013. By Linda Davidson / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Obama’s War Budget

Oct 1 2014 @ 7:53pm

Jessica Schulberg reads a new report that attempts to tally the cost of the ISIS war so far:

Due to the vaguely defined scope of the conflictPresident Barack Obama has vowed not to deploy U.S. combat troopsit has been hard to put a dollar amount on the operation. But a Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) report released Monday estimates that the U.S. has already spent between $780-$930 million in Iraq and Syria. In just the past month, the cost was $250-$400 million, or $9-$14 million per day. …

Because Obama has yet outline any long-term plan for U.S. efforts in Iraq and Syria, CSBA’s long-term cost estimates are based on likely hypothetical levels of warfare. If the U.S. draws down airstrikes to approximately 100 targets a month (there have been 200 targets this month, but air campaigns usually peak early because targets learn to hide) and caps U.S. personnel at 2,000, the cost is estimated to be between $2.4 and $3.8 billion a year. But if the administration follows recommendations to deploy 25,000 ground forces and raises the number of air strikes to 200 a month, it will be closer to $13-$22 billion annually.

“To put this in perspective,” she adds, “the U.S. spent approximately $1.1 billion in total direct expenditures in the 2011 NATO-led intervention in Libya.” But notes that these estimates are “far less than the roughly $150 billion the U.S. spent during the peak years of the Afghan (2011) and Iraq (2008) wars.” Business Insider looks at where the money to fight ISIS is coming from:

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The Father Of Three Faiths

Oct 1 2014 @ 7:15pm


Sajjad Rizvi suggests the “very notion of Abrahamic religions is arguably Islamic” – and explains how he sees the relationship between Judaism, Christian, and Islam:

The Quran presents Abraham as an adherent of Islam, but here “Islam” means the primordial faith that connects humanity to one God and leads in turn to Judaism, Christianity and then historical Islam as proclaimed by Muhammad. There are some who view Islam as a faith that supersedes the two earlier monotheistic religions. But I think it’s more useful to understand Islam as a religion that is self-conscious about its relationship to Judaism and Christianity and explicitly takes account of their scriptures and traditions. Almost all the prophets of the Quran will be familiar to those who know the Bible, and the Quran explicitly refers to parables, ideas and stories from the Bible.

The common roots — and inheritances — of the three faiths make it useful for us to think seriously in terms of a Judeo-Christian-Islamic civilization and heritage that we all share. The development of philosophy in Islam also shows a common tradition of rationality. Anyone with a basic understanding of the categories of Aristotle’s thought employed by Christian and Jewish thinkers would find many of the arguments of Islamic philosophers and theologians familiar. The great Islamic philosopher Avicenna (10th-11th century) developed a metaphysical notion of God that had a tremendous impact on the Latin west: the idea that God is the necessary being required to explain the existence of every contingent being.

(Image: Caravaggio’s The Sacrifice of Isaac, 1603, via Wikimedia Commons)

Face Of The Day

Oct 1 2014 @ 6:45pm


A Syrian Muslim pilgrim poses for a picture outside a hotel near Mecca’s Grand Mosque on October 1, 2014. Hundreds of thousands of Muslim worshipers started pouring into the holy city for the annual Hajj pilgrimage. The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and is mandatory once in a lifetime for all Muslims provided they are physically fit and financially capable. By Mohammed Al-Shaikh/AFP/Getty Images.

Global Business Boosters

Oct 1 2014 @ 6:13pm

Neil Irwin flags a new survey showing that “where big business has the least power and capitalist economies are the least developed, optimism and support for the corporate sector is highest”:

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Naomi Klein’s new book, This Changes Everything, argues that capitalism is largely to blame for our climate crisis. How Klein describes her book in an interview:

Changes EverythingWhat I’m arguing in this book is that we need to return to the progressive tradition of responding to deep crisis by trying to get at the root causes of the crisis. And the best example of that is the way in which the progressive movement responded to the Great Depression. It became an opportunity to change the way we organized our economies, to regulate banks, to launch social programs that got at the roots of inequality.

If we really believed that climate change is an existential crisis, if we believed climate change is a weapon of mass destruction, as John Kerry said, why on Earth would you leave it to the vagaries of the market?

In another interview, Klein clarifies her position:

I’m not saying that markets have no role in combatting climate change. I think the right market incentives can play a huge role—we can point to all kinds of companies doing great stuff. The issue is not to say the market has no role. It’s the idea of leaving this to the market. We can mint solar and wind millionaires and still not get there because we have these hard targets we have to meet. There will have to be a strong role for the public sector, a strong role for regulations and, yes, incentives. But the idea of just leaving our collective fate to the market is madness. You wouldn’t treat any other existential crisis in that way.

Zachary Karabell strongly disagrees with Klein’s thesis. He fears that “rhetoric risks obscuring just how much is being done by large companies around the world to reduce their carbon emissions and environmental footprint”:

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Would You Eat A Black Bun?

Oct 1 2014 @ 5:15pm

Tiffanie Wen discusses the reception of a black burger in Burger King restaurants in Japan:

Americans have been both intrigued and repulsed by the images. “Finally #BurgerKing makes a burger the way your body sees it … disgusting and cancer-causing,” one Twitter user wrote. Another tweeted: “It’s the black cheese that freaks me out the most. It looks like the kind of rubber they use to make gimp masks.”

But the burger is enjoying a “favorable reception” in Japan, according to the Guardian—so why do Americans have such a negative response to it?

She offers an answer:

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