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The Faraway Nearby Paperback – April 29, 2014
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The catalyst for the latest spiraling inquiry by Lannan Literary Award–winning creative nonfiction master Solnit is her mother’s Alzheimer’s. Solnit considers memory and its mutations, contemplates the harvest of a backyard apricot tree, and celebrates the pleasures and revelations of reading and writing—“You have an intimacy with the far away and distance from the near at hand.” Drawing on intrepid research, she analyzes with verve and exceptional fluency in metaphor the pivotal roles stories play in our private and social lives, pondering the infinite resonance of fairy tales and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Working with a sequence of repeating motifs—apricots, mirrors, ice, flight, breath, wound, knot—Solnit chronicles her residency in Iceland at the Library of Water and offers surprising and stirring observations about chemical pollution and polar bears, Dutch still lifes and Che Guevara, symbiosis and butterflies, the “mesmerizing art” of spinning and Buddhism, and her own alarming “medical adventure.” Solnit’s ensouling facility with language and profound perception of “physical and psychic geography” shape her complexly evocative musings on how we extract meaning from inheritance, feeling, place, and experience. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Her most intimate work to date, The Faraway Nearby traces a difficult times in Solnit's life, as she endured her mother's descent into the fog of Alzheimer's, the death of a close friend, and her own struggle with breast cancer. Taking a cue from Buddhism, which "takes change as a given and suffering as the inevitable consequence of attachment and then asks what you are going to do about it," Solnit launches into an investigation of storytelling that helps her write her way toward something like solace.--Meehan Crist --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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With a deft hand, Solnit weaves the doors and windows through which she travels into a mesmerizing story. As a child, she was a solitary person, but found that " books are solitudes in which we meet." ( possibly my favorite sentence in the book.). She shares the stories that have helped her to shape her own life and have in turn inspired her own writings. She had decided early on to never refuse an adventure, and she shares a few she had taken as relief and growth as the burden of her mother grew.
Solnit also speaks of the ways in which our interior dialogues can trap us. They can tell us who to love or hate. "Not a few stories are sinking ships." She believes among these tales are the ones that stiffened and distanced her mother into jealousy and aloofness. Somehow, the author successfully weaves the story of Frankenstein and the history of his creator into a meaningful, and even necessary, part of her own discourse. Along the way, Solnit goes to the "country where many go much further and some don't return." She has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
This is a literate book for the reader who loves a well crafted work. It is thoughtful, insightful, and even funny. It challenges the reader to evaluate one's own internal script and to open for the constant change of every context. This is a book that fills the promise of solitudes meeting.
Passages regarding her travels also seem out of sorts with an otherwise cohesive work, compounding and building with each new piece of her puzzle, whether it is a historical figure, a work of art, or extended metaphor that is artfully carried well beyond its assumed shelf life.