Everyday notes

The familiar essay
A few years ago I was given a book of Anne Fadiman’s essays, Ex Libris, and was smitten. Last year, while I was recuperating from hip surgery, a friend gave me another of her collections, At Large and At Small. Her essays are so interesting, amusing and wise that I find reading one of them a perfect way to begin the day.

Fadiman practices a literary genre known as the familiar essay—a short reflection that is equal parts brain and heart. It’s a combination that makes me think of John Calvin’s characterization of Reformed faith as a function of intellect and emotion. One of the Reformed tradition’s most enduring gifts is its emphasis on expressing the gospel in a mode that is intellectually challenging, academically viable and emotionally engaging. I can’t help noting the similarity between what Fadiman does in this regard and what the preacher attempts to do every week.


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