Marilynne Robinson’s Latest Collection of Essays

RobinsonIt is titled The Givenness of Things and it was published near the end of last year.  Natasha Moore reviews it at the website of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation

In The Givenness of Things, Robinson carries her characteristic refusal to recognise any gap between her indelibly theological view of the world and her mainstream secular audience to a new level. Like a theologian of old, like a twenty-first century Jonathan Edwards, she nonchalantly invokes concepts long out of use in public conversation. She muses, with unselfconscious seriousness, on questions of Christology or the workings of the Trinity in relation to urgent contemporary issues like the partisanship of American politics, or the travails of the modern university.

Some readers will find this refreshing; others, I imagine, quixotic or baffling. But then, I thought that about Gilead too, and it won the Pulitzer.

The pointy end of Robinson’s high view of humanity, rooted deeply in what she understands to be God’s high view of humanity – the imprint of his image in us – comes in her periodic excoriations of a public discourse that defaults so easily to contempt for other people. Her diagnosis of the problem leaves quite a few of us, on both sides of politics, pinned and wriggling on the wall – whether in Trump’s America or Operation-Sovereign-Borders Australia:

“Cultural pessimism is always fashionable, and, since we are human, there are always grounds for it. It has the negative consequence of depressing the level of aspiration, the sense of the possible. And from time to time it has the extremely negative consequence of encouraging a kind of somber panic, a collective dream-state in which recourse to terrible remedies is inspired by delusions of mortal threat. If there is anything in the life of any culture or period that gives good grounds for alarm, it is the rise of cultural pessimism, whose major passion is bitter hostility toward many or most of the people within the very culture the pessimists always feel they are intent on rescuing.”

Read Moore’s entire piece here