Saturday, 9 April 2011

Rebecca Solnit

I never did know where I was, even when I was home

Today I will be reading Rebecca Solnit's book: A Field Guide to Getting Lost. Rebecca Solnit is the author of thirteen books about art, landscape, public and collective life, ecology, politics, hope, meandering, reverie, and memory. 

I came to her writing through my persistently and increasing interest for nature writing. And a hero of mine, Thoreau, is by no doubt present in Solnit's book:
Not till we are lost, not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations
A Field Guide to Getting Lost is broken into nine pieces. Five of them are autobiographical accounts in which Solnit interprets her youth, all the while borrowing freely from high culture (Plato’s Meno) and low culture (Vertigo), the natural world (desert tortoises), and American history (Lewis and Clark). The other four pieces are all entitled “The Blue of Distance” (they’re alternated with the other five) and in these Solnit explores previous artists, writers, and explorers who stubbornly chased the horizon, many of whom developed an odd fixation with the color blue in the process.

Solnit is fascinated by how and why people get lost and, more importantly, what happens when they are found, find themselves or decide to stay lost.

In a passage she writes very interesting about Virginia Woolf:
For Woolf, getting lost was not a matter of geography so much as identity, a passionate desire, even an urgent need, to become no one and anyone, to shake off the shackles that remind you who you are, who others think you are
I recognize this kind of getting lost as the need for freedom, especially important when one is writing. 
It's not about being lost but about trying to lose yourself. 


Andrea said...

Hello, can you imagine that a few days ago, I was close to giving you a hint to this book (which I'm just reading myself), in the very moment when Solnit mentions Thoreau - but somehow I was sure you alreadey know it ... I'm very thrilled by what the author has to say and just ordered Wanderlust at my library. I wish you a great day!

Sigrun said...

Hi Andrea, how strange - almost unbelievable?!
I have only this one book of hers, and I'm reading it on my iPad. I was planning to get Wanderlus as well, but its only available in print, so it will take some time for me to get hold of it.
Looking forward to hear more about your thoughts on both of the books!
Have a great weekend!

Tom Cunliffe said...

Thanks for bringing this book to my attention - it looks "just up my street". You may also enjoy Geoff Nicholson's book, the Lost Art of Walking - which is not only about walking but the whole idea of travelling in search of self-discovery. Your blog is very interesting and I've added it to my links list

Sigrun said...

Hi Tom, Thanks for the tips!
I especially like Solnit's essayistic way of writing, it suits her wandering theme - hope you will enjoy it too.