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7 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Do people actually read this stuff? Or just write it?, 17 Jun. 2013
This review is from: The Faraway Nearby (Hardcover)
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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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 7 Nov 2014 22:49:21 GMT
Fine review, but isn't three stars too generous?

Posted on 8 Nov 2014 02:19:43 GMT
Peeking Man says:
Each individual essay, in its own right, if you like that kind of thing, is probably worth four stars, in and of itself.

As a whole, a unified collection, to be bought and digested as one big lump, it's probably worth two.

Two stars is actually saying, "This is bad." It's not "bad".

Posted on 8 Jan 2015 19:37:13 GMT
Last edited by the author on 9 Jan 2015 13:22:22 GMT
Thanks for the review; don't want to be captious but...If you find the first and last essays "exciting" then you need to get out more! Was that related to the fact that you thought you were reading fiction?
As to the matter-of-fact style: plain writing rather than academia? You can't invoke the former and put her in the same breath as Woolf, especially 'The Common Reader', a classic and brilliant (agreed it's not a barrel of laughs). I agree in literariness she is like Woolf, well meant (not said, you weren't quite clear). You entangle matter-of-fact and academia.
"Interesting, but not very"? I'd say something is or not.
As for "empathetic" I am not sure quite what you mean by it: accounts from the INSIDE or ones from the OUTSIDE (that condescend too much?). Not a quibble, as the word is probably the most abused after 'issue'!
"I certainly wouldn't advise anyone to buy the book" and your review's title certainly suggest you think it very bad, indeed not worth reading. Come on! have the courage of your evident convictions.
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