The Givenness of Things: Essays

Ms. Robinson’s brain jumps out of this collection as if it’s a pop-up book to entertain children. She’s smart, not just “like, a smart person” smart, but actually intelligent and a great writer. Unfortunately, despite the grand premise of this book, my eyes got too squinty trying to follow her through the parade of religious figures and Shakespeare and Marx and discussions of ontology. The book begins with a bang, a strong cry in defense of the humanities that are being flushed down the toilet by current culture. This phrase in particular haunted me: “the spirit of the times is one of joyless urgency…” While meandering through the Reformation, she brings up an interesting point about how in addition to bringing knowledge to the masses by way of freeing it from obscure Latin, an immediate result was “The emergence of the great modern languages out of the shadow of Latin, with their power and beauty and dignity fully demonstrated in the ambitious uses being made of them.”