cover image The Givenness of Things: Essays

The Givenness of Things: Essays

Marilynne Robinson. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-0-374298-470

This probing, provocative collection by Pulitzer winner Robinson (Gilead) argues for the recovery of humanism as a response to the problems of our historical moment. Robinson's is a "humanism articulated in the terms of Christian metaphysics," based on a deep reading of the Bible and her self-declared Calvinism. She is as impressively erudite and incisive in dealing with Shakespeare's "theological seriousness" and the literariness of the Reformation as in examining the current American allegiance to science over wonder, competitiveness over generosity, technology over art. The essays demonstrate an engaging humility, a quiet voice pure of accusation or bombast, and insight touched with humor. Robinson's surgically precise prose and disciplined thought convey regret for human fallibility just as strongly as reverence for human potential. Her solution is a moral reparation%E2%80%94a reinvigoration of "the conceptual vocabulary of religion" and "a more considered understanding of the soul" that acknowledges "the ontological centrality of humankind in the created order." "To value one another is our greatest safety," Robinson writes, "and to indulge in fear and contempt is our gravest error." Eloquent, persuasive, and rigorously clear, this collection reveals one of America's finest minds working at peak form, capturing essential ideas with all "the authority beautiful language and beautiful thought can give them." Agent: Ellen Levine, Trident Media Group. (Oct.)