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Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics Hardcover – June 18, 2007

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

These provocative essays by National Book Critics Circle award–winner Solnit (Wanderlust, etc.), mostly published in magazines like the London Review of Books and Sierra and in books by other authors over the past seven years, attempts to understand politics through place. Her meditations often begin with landscape, but for her, "to be in the woods is not to be out of society or politics." She goes far beyond pristine nature, as she considers the mythology of the American West, ponders Silicon Valley—which she calls "a non-place"—and muses about antiglobalization protest sites in California and Miami. The impediments people use to keep strangers out of their gardens distress her, as do barriers that would seal the U.S. off from the rest of the world. She celebrates vibrant public spaces, laments malls and rails against the displacement of Asher Durand's painting Kindred Spirits from New York City to Arkansas, by a Wal-Mart heiress whose fortune is built on a philosophy antithetical to that of the painting. Activists and idealists Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs and Betty Friedan, and the visionary architect Teddy Cruz give her hope. Always insightful, these essays offer many shrewd observations about the social, political and cultural landscape of contemporary America. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

For Solnit, walking the earth, placing words on a page, and standing up for her beliefs are symbiotic acts. Following in the footsteps of her guiding light, Henry David Thoreau, Solnit contemplates our sense of place, an ever-shifting mix of nature and culture. The author of 10 books, each a remarkably incisive blend of history and interpretation, Solnit, a global justice activist, now presents a potent collection of nearly 40 essays sophisticated in thought, elegant in expression, and catalyzing in impact. Solnit's anchoring place is Nevada, the site of the detonation of hundreds of nuclear bombs and countless battles over land, water, and the disposal of nuclear waste. Radiating out from this blasted epicenter, Solnit considers the fate of Native Americans, the fallout from the often overlooked Mexican-American War, and the enormous influence of computer technology. Reflections on such seminal creators as Walter Benjamin, Susan Sontag, and Eliot Porter yield surprising treasures. And underlying all is Solnit's quest for understanding how our dream of paradise has failed to keep us from ravaging the planet. Seaman, Donna
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 429 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (June 18, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520251091
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520251090
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #850,987 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Writer, historian, and activist Rebecca Solnit is the author of sixteen books about environment, landscape, community, art, politics, hope, and memory, including two atlases, of San Francisco in 2010 and New Orleans in 2013; this year's Men Explain Things to Me; last year's The Faraway Nearby; A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster; A Field Guide to Getting Lost; Wanderlust: A History of Walking; and River of Shadows, Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West (for which she received a Guggenheim, the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism, and the Lannan Literary Award). A product of the California public education system from kindergarten to graduate school, she is a contributing editor to Harper's and frequent contributor to the political site Tomdispatch.com.

She encourages you to shop at Indiebound, your local independent bookstore, Powells.com, Barnes & Noble online and kind of has some large problems with how Amazon operates these days. Though she's glad if you're buying her books however.....

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A friend who said he was reminded of Joan Didion by these essays only made clear to me how much more there is to Solnit: one of the most gifted writers we have, for one thing, who brings to bear sensitivities to political questions, her own personal interactions with the environment, historical and philosophic musings, at the same time researching her topics and presenting pertinent and sometimes obscure facts with a casualness that belies the rigor that must have gone into their research.

Readers new to Solnit might be steered first to her celebrated classic, "River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West," but these essays sacrifice none of the intellectual reach and sweep of that earlier work. Some are slightly dated, as might be predicted from their topicality, but all are well enough written to maintain interest as snippets out of time. I particularly enjoyed one in which, having invited Solnit to visit, Susan Sontag seemed to welcome her "into the republic of literature;" in another, Solnit makes a breathtaking connection between the bikini waxes of Playboy bunnies and clear-cutting in the Sequoia National forest--and makes a pertinent point of it.

I'm not especially driven to read about the ingenious ways rapacious corporations have skirted laws and ethics to plunder the American landscape, still less about our own disregard; but Solnit makes interesting not only those subjects but many others in this volume. Each essay is an example of a wonderful writer plying her craft, a reflective citizen and highly cultivated mind never so self-indulgent as to forego hard information that you've never heard before, historical facts that have been overlooked or suppressed.

I suspect that some of these essays will be classics fifty years hence. In the meantime, enjoy the literary champagne, even as you become better informed citizens of this, our beleaguered planet.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of my favorite collections of Solnit's work - at least, as far as I have read up to this point; by no means exhaustive. I think that her work is beautiful and clear, poignant and strong. She digs deeply into issues that are incredibly important while maintaining a striking poetic voice. It is the writing of the wise sister you always wanted.
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Format: Paperback
Thoughtful and well written. Varied essays. These essays will make you think for years to come.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is wee-researched and provides references for those who wish th know more.
As timely today as it was when it was first published. Excellent book for Sierra Club members or for those interested in environmental issues.
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