The Faraway Nearby

The Faraway Nearby

Book - 2013
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A companion to "A Field Guide for Getting Lost" explores the ways that people construct lives from stories and connect to each other through empathy, narrative, and imagination, sharing anecdotes about historical figures and members of the author's own family.
Publisher: London : Granta, 2013.
ISBN: 9781847085115
Characteristics: 259 p. ; 23 cm.


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Nov 03, 2016

An avalanche of ideas, constructs, journeys, a universe of themes and experiences that Solnit weaves together into a quilt of connectedness. In essence, that's what the book is all about: that all, all is connected. It would perhaps be unsporting or even pejorative to call it philosophy (which it is) because it's first and foremost a story -- story within story and story about story. Within a few pages, Solnit conjures the Marquis de Sade, Siddhartha, the art of spinning, leprosy, art installations, Frankenstein's monster, Peter Freuchen ..... and so it goes. Remarkably, it all makes sense. It certainly helps that Solnit is a master of prose, turning ordinary words into unique and memorable passages.
Especially intriguing is her account of a labyrinth in Iceland, a proxy for the journey of life -- which explains the continuous stream of ideas that runs along the bottom of every page.
This is by no means a quick read: Solnit packs so much into every page and paragraph that it's necessary to slow down, enjoy the images and let her take you for a ride.

Apr 29, 2015

Solnit's writing is so deep, so rich, so beautiful that I kept needing to set the book down and let the passages sink deep into me. I can't wait to read more by her.

Feb 04, 2015

Reading this felt like being dragged by the wrist by a manic friend into a day-long treasure hunt of sorts. It's a bit discordant, like Symphonie Fantastique-discordant. Solnit gives us a compilation of personal stories wrapped up like little truffles stuffed with luscious bits of natural history, art history, literature, philosophy, and the writing life. Solnit changes subjects often, seeming to introduce a totally new topic only to tie things together again later. But she doesn't just make connections between ideas and topics and draw out their common themes. No. She loops back constantly, building a kind of tapestry of stories. Over, under, under, over. There's the big picture, but it's one that's threaded on a loom of smaller stories.

She uses these stories to "tell" herself but manages to conceal herself, too, as if parrying or dodging our scrutiny when we get too close. This did get a little exasperating at times, especially when I was enjoying a particular track and then suddenly she switches. At times, these recursive loops feel overly defensive. But no matter. “People disappear into their stories all the time,” writes Solnit. And “we never tell the story whole."

Meditative collection of stories about pain and growth, loss and re-discovery of self. I would read it every few years as I grow old.

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