I’m in the process of tidying up up my blog. so I’m just posting a few book reviews I had posted elsewhere, but I wanted to make sure they were codified in the main body of the blog. Sixth up:-
“The Faraway Nearby”, Solnit, R. (2014) London: Granta Books
A beautifully written book which manages to succeed in helping to make faraway locations seem nearby, and to take the nearby/everyday or commonplace to different or faraway contexts, helping to bring fresh perspective on them in the process.
Solnit’s book is an elegant piece of memoir, almost of therapy. It takes what at times can appear to be a random stream of deep reflections, and weaves them amongst strands which take us deep into the territory of the craft of storytelling. Rather than just trying to unpick what makes a ‘good’ story, it uses these insights to heighten the experiences it introduces us to, making those feelings personal, and intense, and provoking us to reflect on our own story. It is difficult to not start looking for and making connections in your own life, just as she has in hers.
The book is as good an example of psychogeography as you will find on the shelves, without ever trying to formalise such a definition for itself, or explore the concept – but place is important.
Marina Warner, writing a review for The Guardian (June 2013) said;
“Dominating Solnit’s rich repertoire are two main thoughts: that imagination activated through reading and art, can help overcome the feeling of being a stranger in the world, lost among strangers, and second, that characters and places can build another home, and provide alternative stories to the dismal and constrictive plots of our own lives!”
“We are all the heroes of our own stories,” she writes, “and one of the arts of perspective is to see yourself small on the stage of another’s story, to see the vast expanse of the world that is not about you and to see your power, to make your life, to make others or break them, to tell stories, rather than be told by them.”
I’ll end, by sharing the beginning of Solnit’s book, so you can decide for yourself if it’s a journey you want to pick up, and begin for yourself. I can thoroughly recommend it. It’s an engrossing book – at times, I was so effected by it, I forgot I was reading a book. And their is a delightful device running throughout the book of a pile of slowly rotting apricots from a tree in her mother’s garden, how she has to deal with them, what they mean to her, and what their legacy becomes. Beautiful, for a reader who has become obsessed with the sourdough revolution, and other baking for neighbours.
“What’s your story? It’s all in the telling. Stories are compasses and architecture, we navigate by them, we build our sanctuaries and our prisons out of them, and to be without a story is to be lost in the vastness of a world that spreads in all directions like arctic tundra or sea ice. To love someone is to put yourself in their place, we say, which is to put yourself in their story, or figure out how to tell yourself their story.”
“Which means that a place is a story, and stories are geography, and empathy is first of all an act of imagination, a storyteller’s art, and then a way of travelling from here to there. What is it like to be the old man silenced by a stroke, the young man facing the executioner, the woman walking across the border, the child on the roller coaster, the persons you’ve only read about, or the one next to you in bed.”
This book helps you find it, and feel it.