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: New York, New York, USA : Viking, [2013]
Copyright Date: ©2013
ISBN: 9780670025961
0670025968
Branch Call Number: 814 SOLNIT
Characteristics: 259 pages ; 22 cm

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JCLChrisK Nov 08, 2017

An evocative collection of meditations that emerged from a time of crisis in Solnit's life, centered on her mother's descent into Alzheimer's and her diagnosis of and treatment for potential cancer. Solnit's writing is fluid and meandering, flowing lyrically from thought to thought, topic to topic. Themes recur frequently and range widely. Central to the entire enterprise is consideration of the nature and purpose of stories, and how telling her own has helped her heal.

Less connected than the rest is a bonus . . . meditation still seems to be the best word to describe what is part story, part essay, part philosophy, part poem . . . a bonus meditation that runs one line on the bottom of each page the length of the entire book: "Moths Drink the Tears of Sleeping Birds." Less connected explicitly; encapsulating the entire enterprise thematically. It concludes:

"Moths drink the tears of sleeping birds. The birds sleep on, inadvertent givers. The moths fly on, enriched. We feed on sorrows, on stories, on the spaciousness they open up when they let us travel in our imagination beyond our own limits, when they dissolve the boundaries that confine us and urge us to extend the potentialities of our imperfect, broken, incomplete selves. Those apricots my brother brought me in three big cardboard boxes long ago, were they tears too? And this book, is it tears? Who drinks your tears, who has your wings, who hears your stories?"

It is a moving and satisfying book.

w
wyenotgo
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.

u
Urbano
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.

g
gendeg
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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JCLChrisK Nov 08, 2017

Libraries are sanctuaries from the world and command centers into it . . . They are, ideally, places where nothing happens and where everything that has happened is stored up to be remembered and relived, the place where the world is folded up into boxes of paper. Every book is a door that opens onto another world . . . and a library is a Milky Way of worlds. . . . All imaginative, engrossing books are landscapes into which readers vanish.

The object we call a book is not the real book, but its potential, like a musical score or seed. It exists fully only in the act of being read; and its real home is inside the head of the reader, where the symphony resounds, the seed germinates. A book is a heart that only beats in the chest of another.

JCLChrisK Nov 08, 2017

Something wonderful happens to you and you instantly look back over your life and see it as a series of fortunate events stretching off into the distance like mountain peaks. Something terrible happens and your life has always been a litany of woe. The present rearranges the past. We never tell the story whole because a life isn’t a story; it’s a whole Milky Way of events and we are forever picking out constellations from it to fit who and where we are.

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