Thank God we have Marilynne Robinson to stick up for unfashionable opinions. And thank God we have her to remind us what “America” means, aside from all those things we think it means. I’m talking about cultural roots, about John Calvin, about the Transcendentalists, about unironic Christian belief, about the rural salt of the earth that for all intents and purposes stopped existing in this nation sometime shortly after we electrified the countryside.
But forget all that for a moment. What I really want to tell you about The Givenness of Things is how it sticks a shiv in the side of every techno-utopian, STEM-obsessing, materialist asshole who has ever given you a tight grin after hearing that you decided to major in a humanity. I have never read a living author make the case for the value of the humanities as well as Robinson does. She comes across as so completely rational, so calm, so purely kind and loving and quietly brilliant about the way she tells the kind of people who’s life goal is to build a driverless car to go fuck off.
We need an author like Robinson to remind us of everything that was forgotten while we were chasing the trends. A writer to remind us that, first and foremost, we are living creatures, and we will always be flesh and blood no matter what. A writer who can synthesize half a millennium of cultural thought in some 20 pages and not come off as sounding rushed or superficial. A writer who is truly conversant with the joy that anyone in this line of work should never lose touch with, and who has reminded us of that fact with every single book, going back now over three decades.
Why would you want to deny yourself a chance to see Marilynne Robinson’s mind at work? These are essays unlike any other essays being published right now, the opportunity to interface with an intellect whose time on this Earth we are all fortunate to share.