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The Faraway Nearby [Hardcover]

Rebecca Solnit
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Jun 2013
Gifts come in many guises. One summer, Rebecca Solnit was bequeathed a hundred pounds of ripening apricots, which lay on her bedroom floor - a windfall, a riddle, an emergency to be dealt with. The fruit came from a neglected tree that her mother, gradually succumbing to memory loss, could no longer tend to. From this unexpected inheritance came stories, spun like those of Scheherazade who used her gifts as a storyteller to prolong her life and weave her way into the heart of a king. So too came invitations and adventures; in a library of water in Iceland, in the basin of the Grand Canyon, in the imagined emptiness of the Arctic. As she looks back on the year of apricots and emergencies, Solnit draws together the threads of her life with the lives of others; explorers and artists, the Marquis de Sade and Mary Shelley, the living and the dead. Woven together these stories create a map which charts the boundaries and the territories of storytelling, empathy and giving; an impassioned defence of the spaces we share and the ways in which they form us.

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The Faraway Nearby + A Field Guide to Getting Lost + Wanderlust: A History of Walking
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Granta (6 Jun 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847085113
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847085115
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 13.8 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 90,044 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'This is no ordinary memoir. It is an extraordinary piece of work in which the personal and philosophical meet. Solnit mind is dizzyingly expansive, making poetic and sometimes less obvious connections between influences and experiences.' --Irish Times

A powerfully insightful and moving memoir that is also a mediation on travel, storytelling, illness and - perhaps above all - empathy. Fittingly for a book about the power of storytelling, Solnit is a terrific practitioner of the art. --'Book of the Week', The Lady

Solnit explores love and loss, warmth and coldness, the making of art and the remaking of the self - her distinctive, dense and at times stunning, storytelling hacks a path through the creative landscape, delving into what it is that makes us - and what it is that can ultimately break us, too. --We Love This Book

'A rather eccentric set of essays... held together by such beautiful and sublime prose.' --'Readers best books of 2013', Guardian

Solnit explores love and loss, warmth and coldness, the making of art and the remaking of the self - her distinctive, dense and at times stunning, storytelling hacks a path through the creative landscape, delving into what it is that makes us - and what it is that can ultimately break us, too. --We Love This Book

About the Author

Rebecca Solnit is author of, among other books, Wanderlust, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, the NBCC award-winning River of Shadows and A Paradise Built In Hell. A contributing editor to Harper's, she writes regularly for the London Review of Books and the Los Angeles Times. She lives in San Francisco.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Unusual and Interesting Journey 28 July 2013
Prizewinning American author, Rebecca Solnit, has named her latest book after a painting by the artist Georgia O'Keeffe: 'From the Faraway, Nearby' - an interesting choice of title for an unusual and very interesting book. Part memoir, part psychological examination, Solnit uses her series of elegant and diverse essays and reflections to confront rather painful subjects, such as the intense and difficult relationship between herself and her rather bitter and resentful mother; her mother's frightening descent into dementia; and, amongst other subjects, a health crisis of the author's own.

However, this is not just an examination of illness, death and difficult family issues, nor is it a depressing book, for Rebecca Solnit uses her very competent storytelling skills to take the reader on a journey through time and landscape, where we have the opportunity to meet famous characters and look at events from their lives, whilst the author cleverly weaves their stories into her own. So, on the journey, we read about Scheherazade and 'The Arabian Nights'; Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter, Mary Shelley, the author of 'Frankenstein'; Che Guevara; Napoleon; the Marquis de Sade; and, amongst others, the Chinese artist from the Tang dynasty, Wu Daozi, who painted a picture of a landscape with mountains and a cave, and then stepped into the cave and disappeared in order to escape the wrath of the Emperor.

Fluid and beautifully written, I found this an intriguing and rather fascinating book; one to keep on the bookshelf, to read and experience again - I am also now interested in looking at the author's previous books, perhaps starting with:A Field Guide to Getting Lost.

4 Stars.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable read if you like to meander 29 Aug 2013
By D. Gold
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I like the way Rebecca Solnit writes, so for me I enjoyed the book. I think some may find her musings a little long winded, but for me it was a good holiday read. It dragged a bit in the middle but there were some lovely ideas in it.
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6 of 15 people found the following review helpful
THE FARAWAY NEARBY is a collection of essays on a variety of topics. Solnit has a very straightforward matter of fact style which raises the collection little t0o high towards academia, without providing much by way of credentials. I am reminded of Woolf's THE COMMON READER. The work is entirely humorless and more than a little show-offish.

The first two and final essays concern Solnit's mother, and her Alzheimer's. They are unsentimental and direct. They are both exciting, and informative. At that time I had no idea if I was reading fiction or not. I wish I had been, because they were a very promising beginning and a pleasing antidote to other more `empathetic' works I have recently read on the subject. Thereafter we are into Solnit's thoughts about literature, generally mythology and fairy tales, generally in the frozen North or South and generally concerned with the role of landscape in creating a fairy tale culture.

Essay writing is both tremendously competitive and a difficult commercial prospect. I found the collection interesting, but not very. I don't entirely trust Solnit's research and I was constantly heading for Wikipedia. She's certainly not Foster Wallace or Marilynne Robinson, nowhere close. I'd read one, mostly, in the New Yorker but I certainly wouldn't advise anyone to buy the book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  25 reviews
52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Stories are compasses and architecture; we navigate by them" 13 Jun 2013
By Amelia Gremelspacher - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The Huffington Press has chosen this lilting book as the book they are "talking about this week.". It will certainly haunt me. The story that launches her current book is the loss of her mother to Alzheimer's, step by awful step. In her attempt to frame this reality, she nests the narratives that her mother has told herself and her own responsive attempts to organize reality. Her mother had not been a warm, or often even kind.

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.
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars quite possibly the most eloquent and capable literary genius of our time. 16 Jun 2013
By bas bleu - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The Faraway Nearby, is the first work I have read by Rebecca Solnit. Far and away I am awestruck with her literary genius, and her genius in general. I did not agree with many of her views but that is neither here or there. Incomparable, is the only way to describe her incredible ability to put into word the abstract feelings and emotions written upon her psyche. Many of the feelings and emotions she shares are common to humankind, but few of us could come remotely close to putting these into acute focus with words, written or spoken.She shares that this book was written as an emergency, by the time you read that you will have already known that before she shares it in words. Dealing with her mothers disappearance into the mists of Alzheimer's, dealing with the trauma of surgery, possible breast cancer, the death of a dear friend, and the pain of a breakup with her boyfriend, wow, a walk on a thin line for any of us. I was left with the feeling that her emergency is still somewhat imminent. If so, may she find a light shining on the path that is to lead her to the steps of healing and metamorphosis to her higher self. A master of description, a rare gift of literary ability to her readers, Rebecca Solnit walks above the realm of the average gifted author.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful, far-reaching exploration of life, love, and the stories we tell about them 8 July 2013
By Bookreporter - Published on
If ever a word in the English language was more fraught with meaning, misunderstanding and creative potential than story, I'd like to know it. Perhaps love is a close contender, but as Rebecca Solnit's THE FARAWAY NEARBY demonstrates with such compelling and quiet power, story and love are so intertwined that they could be accused of conflict of interest.

Solnit challenges the very roots of what our society, specifically a Western capitalist-consumerist one, identifies in its limited way around the concept of stories and personal narrative. Writing fact-based (or even fact-motivated) autobiography or memoir is one thing; writing about reflected experiences that are allowed the elastic freedom of truthful change and evolution is quite another. The landscape of Solnit's memory is almost a genre unto itself, a vast expanse in which the universal and intimate literally travel side by side.

On one level, THE FARAWAY NEARBY recounts Solnit's arduous journey through her estranged mother's final years, as Alzheimer's disease progressively disconnected her cognitive abilities and self-awareness. It wasn't simply a matter of arranging an elderly woman's life and affairs as she transitioned from independence to nursing home care. It was also about rearranging and reframing a deeply entrenched story of mother-daughter contention that had persisted from Solnit's earliest childhood and infected an otherwise very successful adult career. When mother and child roles were reversed, a new intimacy and understanding emerged that came as close as anything to reconciliation.

On other levels, this introspective masterpiece probes the often-avoided areas of failed and successful relationships, our delight and fear of the transcendent, the spiritual implications of serious illness, the always foreboding intimations of mortality, and the elusive quest for a definable and structured identity. The list sounds so contemporary, so self-absorbed, so same-old, and yet is anything but the pat and predictable kind of account that fills too much time on TV talk shows. As I learned from my first moments with THE FARAWAY NEARBY, the only way to do full justice to Solnit's far-reaching exploration of life's story is her intended medium --- the one-on-one relationship of turning pages and receptive mind.

Oddly enough, and strangely endearing, Solnit anchors her reflection around the unexpected and inconvenient "legacy" of an abundant crop of apricots from the tree at her mother's former home. The task of having to sort, discard, preserve and give away the enormous pile of fruit before it all dissolved into a bacterial mess on her floor is intricately woven into the complex fabric of simultaneously engaging and letting go. Chapters about apricots become the redemptive bookends of her storied journey, without limiting or even pretending to conclude things in a typically tidy, literary way.

While THE FARAWAY NEARBY could only emerge from Solnit's unique and unconventional life, it couldn't have become what it is without her inventive and meticulous absorption of myriad other stories, all of them filtered through the lens of her learning, experience, aspirations and self-confessed shortcomings. That lens takes on many colors and textures, sometimes soft and rose-tinted, other times gritty and harsh; still other views are cloudy and questioning, leaving their resolution an unsolved mystery.

If you've ever been skeptical about the primal power of the human narrative, ever wanted to leave the academic English-lit or professional psychotherapeutic highways that define story in rigid and sometimes pejorative terms, Rebecca Solnit will take you there in an amazing and memorable off-road journey.

Reviewed by Pauline Finch
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pain and pleasure 24 Jun 2013
By Stephen Persing - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book was billed in advance as similar to Solnit's book A Field Guide to Getting Lost, but that is misleading. This book touches on more pain, and the threads that run through it tie the book together more completely as a whole instead of a collection of essays. I liked both books, but The Faraway Nearby feels a little more mature in its acknowledgment of the sorrows and hardships of life. As always, Rebecca Solnit writes with inspired prose that seems always on the edge of becoming poetry. A marvelous book.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kudos for Solnit 4 Aug 2013
By artark.kiley - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I don't enjoy complying with the expectation to rate a purchase, but for this book, I'll make an exception--because it is exceptional. Solnit is an original thinker and her creative use of words and phrases is sheer alchemy. Plus, there are several visual treats in the makeup of the book.
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