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A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster Paperback – August 31, 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
Solnit's core argument -- that we can find hints of a humanist-style utopia in the world's worst disasters -- is not only provocative but fascinating, as she amasses a host of evidence to prove her point from the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 up to Hurricane Katrina nearly a century later, disasters that range from the Halifax explosion during World War 1 to the terrorist attacks on 9/11 in both New York and Washington. In the midst of these disasters, as she chronicles repeatedly, people -- ordinary individuals, not institutions -- rose to the occasion. Rather than panicking, they acted, whether that meant battling to save lives or simply to reach out to strangers in random acts of love and compassion. With disaster, paradoxically, can come joy, since in disaster it is possible for those of us not immediately afflicted to rediscover a sense of community and purpose that is otherwise absent from our lives. "The desires and possibilities awakened are so powerful that they shine even from wreckage, carnage and ashes," Solnit writes.
Solnit was driven to write this book by her experiences in California's Loma Prieta earthquake; I was compelled to pick it up by my own experiences in the heart of lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001. I witnessed sights that continue to give me nightmares, but experienced (and to some extent participated in) the kind of reforging of a spirit of community of the kind that she describes.Read more ›
Viewers of "The History Channel" will be familiar with its habit of broadcasting a regularly scheduled "Apocalypse Week", during which they attempt to goose the ratings by scaring the bejasus out of their viewing audience. A typical day's programming during Apocalypse Week takes one possible way in which the world might end (megavolcano explosion, meteor impact, nuclear holocaust, deadly plague, climatic catastrophe, the Rapture, Armageddon as prophesied in the Book of Revelations, insert your own favorite apocalyptic nightmare here ...) and develops it in depth. The cynicism and idiocy with which these scenarios are fleshed out cannot be overstated (e.g. alleged "experts" pontificate on whether emergency services are likely to be overextended, or whether planes will fall out of the skies, in the immediate aftermath of the Rapture; or the apocalypse is "linked" to the prophecies of Nostradamus, or the Mayan calendar; boundless idiocy runs rampant).Read more ›
Solnit draws most of her examples from four disasters and their aftermaths, each recounted in detail: the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the 1917 explosion of an ammunition ship in Halifax harbor that destroyed the city, the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, and the World Trade Center attack on 9/11 of 2001. Other earthquakes, hurricanes, bombings, and other disasters are cited for comparison and contrast.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Here's a couple of things I take away from this insightful narrative of diaster: Survival may depend on our ability to foster connections and commitments with others, as dangerous... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Jeremy Freeman
Not completely researched. Spontaneous help absolutely happens in disasters, no matter where. But Red Cross asks everyone if they can help with specific donation needs, and lists... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Kathleen Howe
Everyone in Los Angeles needs to read this book before the next big earthquake. In fact, all Americans should be reading this book to counteract the myth of the rioting,... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Moon Cat
Gain both a better understanding of historical disasters and guidelines for better surviving future ones, as well as the importance of a community being prepared, and informed... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Daniel Elan
This book offers a great description of tragic events in history, but the book was most biased and the author kept shoving her thesis in your face throughout the whole story... Read morePublished 10 months ago by tylerp96
I love this book. It is beautifully written and tells a story about the heroic nature of humanity in