Archives For Rebecca Solnit

 

June 24 marks the birthday of renowned American social critic Rebecca Solnit. 

In honor of the occasion, we offer this introductory reading guide to her work.

 

Rebecca Solnit has been featured on our list of
10 Social Critics that Christians Should Read

 

We’ve ordered this list in the order that we think the books should be read, and we offer a brief explanation of why each book was included. We’ve included excerpts of most the books via Google Books.
 

1)   The Faraway Nearby

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Entering the Solitude
 
A Feature Review of

The Faraway Nearby

Rebecca Solnit

Hardback: Viking, 2013.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]
 
Reviewed by Denise Frame Harlan.
 
Rebecca Solnit says in The Faraway Nearby, “time itself is our tragedy and most of us are fighting some kind of war against it.”
 
As her mother deteriorates with Alzheimer’s, author Rebecca Solnit inherits the last fruits from her mother’s tree: a hundred pounds of “unstable” apricots. “The apricots were a riddle I had to decipher, a tale whose meaning I had to make over the course of the next twelve months as almost everything went wrong.” Some apricots spoil and some ripen, while Solnit contemplates impossible tasks, lost daughters, complicated mothers. Just as she seems poised to address one part of the riddle, another part collapses.  “I got asked over and over …whether she still recognized me. Recognition can mean so many things, and in some sense she had never known who I was.” Like many adults with ailing parents. Solnit reckons with too much challenge, too little time, and problems too confounding, yet her life fills with odd beauties and moments of grace—enough for her to survive.
 
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Here are a few new book releases from this week that are worth checking out:

(Where possible, we have also tried to include a review/interview related to the book…)


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The Faraway Nearby
By Rebecca Solnit

Read a review from The Guardian

 

A Brief Review of

A Paradise Built in Hell:
The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster.

Rebecca Solnit.

Hardback: Viking Books, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.

Rebecca Solnit - A PARADISE BUILT IN HELLTracing community responses from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to the Halifax explosion, Mexico City earthquake, New York City after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, along with dozens of other related disasters along the way, Rebecca Solnit makes a strong case in her new book A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster that it is in the emergent and innovative communities after disasters that a glimpse of another more hopeful world is visible. These communities are marked by “altruism and mutual aid …the practical mustering of creativity and resources to meet the challenges…a dispersed, decentralized system of decision making…connection, participation, altruism, and purposefulness. Thus the startling joy in disasters” (305-6).

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BOOKFORUM Reviews THE AGE OF EMPATHY:
NATURE’S LESSONS FOR A KINDER SOCIETY

By Frans De Waal


http://bookforum.com/inprint/016_03/4341

As the men with the knives dragged the thieves, the crowd jostled for a better view. Minutes later, four young men lay bleeding, each without his right hand and left leg. Some of the onlookers collapsed in fear. Others cheered. This was in June, in Somalia, as reported in the New York Times.

No surprise there, many would say—nothing but one more dismal demonstration of humankind’s worst impulses. “Man is a wolf to man,” Thomas Hobbes declared three centuries ago, and the sentiment was old then. But in his remarkable new book, The Age of Empathy, Frans de Waal contends that Hobbes managed to malign both animals and human beings in the same breath.

Humans are social animals, de Waal observes, and natural selection has shaped us to cooperate, share, and empathize as well as to compete, fight, and maim. The same holds for chimps and gorillas—and wolves. “Don’t believe anyone who says that since nature is based on a struggle for life, we need to live like this as well,” writes de Waal. “Many animals survive not by eliminating each other or keeping everything for themselves, but by cooperating and sharing.”

De Waal has two big goals in his compact book. One is to counter the argument that “every man for himself” is a law of nature. Economists and political thinkers, proclaiming themselves the spokesmen for clear-eyed realism, long ago took a horrified look at the natural world and declared that it is a jungle out there. Competition is ruthless and perpetual, and animals are gladiators with claws and fangs.


Read the full review:
http://bookforum.com/inprint/016_03/4341

THE AGE OF EMPATHY:
NATURE’S LESSONS FOR A KINDER SOCIETY

Francis De Waal.

Hardback: Harmony, 2009.
Pre-order: [ Amazon ]


BELIEVER MAGAZINE Interviews
Rebecca Solnit, author of
A PARADISE BUILT IN HELL

(Reviewing coming soon in the ERB)
http://www.believermag.com/issues/200909/?read=interview_solnitTHE BELIEVER: I’ve seen you referred to as an art historian, a landscape writer, and an art critic, if not more. How do you consider your own work and writer’s identity?

REBECCA SOLNIT: In Wanderlust, I wrote, “This history of walking is an amateur history, just as walking is an amateur act. To use a walking metaphor, it trespasses through everybody else’s field—through anatomy, anthropology, architecture, gardening, geography, political and cultural history, literature, sexuality, religious studies—and doesn’t stop in any of them on its long route. For if a field of expertise can be imagined as a real field—a nice rectangular confine carefully tilled and yielding a specific crop—then the subject of walking resembles walking itself in its lack of confines.” I have a very clear sense of what I am here to do and what its internal coherence is, but it doesn’t fit into the way that ideas and continuities are chopped up into fields or labeled. Sometimes I say I’m an essayist, because that’s an elegant, historically grounded—if sometimes trivialized—mode of literature, while nonfiction is just a term for the leftovers when fiction is considered to be paramount, and creative nonfiction is even more abject a term.

BLVR: In what way, or for whom, do you figure these labels matter?

RS: Well, people want to call you something, and saying you’re just a writer is not enough. Not that I’m comparing myself to them, but Orwell wrote memoir, fiction, polemics, beautiful essays, reviews, ruminations, and tirades; Sontag wrote mostly essays, a few at length, some dealing with broader ideas and genres, some dealing with politics and ethics—and then there are her novels. I love best the nonfiction of a lot of people celebrated mostly for their fiction, from Virginia Woolf to Jamaica Kincaid. The best part about the critical training I got in the visual arts is that it was really just about reading things carefully and asking questions about meaning. The subject could be an artwork, but it could also be the history of nuclear physics or national parks or the representation of Native Americans or the perceptual and spatial changes the railroad brought.

Read the full interview:
http://www.believermag.com/issues/200909/?read=interview_solnit

A PARADISE BUILT IN HELL.
Rebecca Solnit.

Hardback: Viking, 2009
Buy now: [ Amazon ]