PROVIDENCE by Daniel Quinn


The Story of a Fifty-Year Vision Quest
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 Quinn--winner of the $500,000 Turner Tomorrow award for his novel Ishmael (1992)--tells the story of his psychological journey from a loveless childhood into '50s Catholicism and finally to his present creed of animism and self-discovery. Quinn tells us that, as a child in Omaha, Nebr., he was ignored by his mother, despised by his father, and loathed by his peers. He felt that he could win love and acceptance only by making himself perfect. He turned to Catholicism in his early teens, believing he could compel God to love him by excessive religiosity. He spent a few weeks at the famous Trappist Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. There he had a vision of the world ablaze with divine fire, but soon he was told by Thomas Merton, the novice master, that he needed to live life more before becoming a monk. Quinn relates how he then went into publishing, Freudian analysis, and two ill-starred marriages (jettisoning his Catholicism en route) before he ``joined the human race'' and realized that he was lovable just by being normal. Quinn devotes the last part of his book to a poorly thought through vision of human beings as part of the world--not dominating it--supporting this by a necessarily vague appeal to the countless centuries when humans were hunter- gatherers and invoking the unscientific term ``animism'' to denote his ideal of an imminent and possibly atheistic religion; yet he proclaims that ``looking at the universe, I find nothing in it that indicates the numinosity of the divine.'' Quinn takes himself very seriously as the author of Ishmael and is fond of quoting it. The bitterness of his attacks on education and religion as mere bundles of prohibitions that suppress spontaneity suggests that he is still reacting against his strong superego. Likely to interest only devotees of Ishmael.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-553-10018-1
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Bantam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1995


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