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The Faraway Nearby

4.17  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,507 Ratings  ·  403 Reviews
This personal, lyrical narrative about storytelling and empathy from award winner Rebecca Solnit is a fitting companion to her beloved A Field Guide for Getting Lost.

In this exquisitely written new book by the author of A Paradise Built in Hell, Rebecca Solnit explores the ways we make our lives out of stories, and how we are connected by empathy, by narrative, by imaginat
Hardcover, 259 pages
Published June 13th 2013 by Viking
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Margarita It impinged on my consciousness from time to time as I read the main text, and then when I finished the main text, I went back to the beginning and…moreIt impinged on my consciousness from time to time as I read the main text, and then when I finished the main text, I went back to the beginning and read the ticker text (kind of like the scene/metaphor at the end where she waded into the river, holding onto the baggage raft, and came back out around the other side). I think it was an allusion to the thread/story/connectedness theme (it ran throughout and mirrored/amplified various elements of the main text and also contributed new details), it was a way to bring you back into the book and read it in a different way (like the various versions of stories, folk tales and the one about the woman who had to eat her dead husband and children), and it undermined (like other things did: the circular naming of the chapters, the weaving back and forth of themes and stories) conventional notions of a single throughline of narrative.(less)

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Jan 18, 2015 Rowena rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, essays

“That vast pile of apricots included underripe, ripening, and rotting fruit. The range of stories I can tell about my mother include some of each too….There are other stories, not yet ripe, that I will see and tell in later years.” - Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby

It starts off with a basket of apricots, apricots that become an allegory.The gift of apricots that Solnit’s estranged mother gives her starts to decay, much in the the same way as her mother’s mind (she is suffering from Alzheimer
"Surviving the horrific is likewise often done by shutting down sensation, by becoming numb to one's own pain…you erected a wall between yourself and annihilation or horror and sometimes it then walled you off from life."

The wall we erect between ourselves and trauma can become moldy and diseased, if at some point we don't chip away at it. Yet even chipping away at it causes some injury. So what then? These are some of the reflections found in this book of essays, narratives, research, and phi
Jan 04, 2014 Suzanne rated it it was amazing
I loved this massive quilt of patchwork essays embroidered with new words, derivations, original ideas, folk lore, stories, and personal truths which are spun by Rebecca Solnit, an author who I have never heard of and know nothing about. I take that back. As I read this brilliant and textured work, I learned a lot about her and her values and fears and her erudition.
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If you are looking for college essays with an introduction, a body and a conclusion, this is not for you. Her titles are her inspi
"Time itself is our tragedy," Rebecca Solnit writes in The Faraway Nearby , "and most of us are fighting some kind of war against it."

A bounty of apricots slowly decays on Rebecca Solnit’s bedroom floor. The fruit, harvested from trees that once belonged to her mother, becomes–like Proust's madeleine–a way for Solnit to enter her own history. Her mother's mind has been taken over by the slow decay of Alzheimer’s. The daughter is left with overripe fruit and her mother’s memories, a few sweet as
Emma Sea
Feb 16, 2016 Emma Sea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
tired. no review. book good.


read for my 2016 Book Challenge: #16, a memoir. But also because I really, really like Solnit's writing
Nov 13, 2015 Teresa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Uma capa bonita; um título sugestivo; um comentário do The Guardian muito sedutor; uma editora interessante; uma espreitadela à média do Goodreads (4,18). E lá trás a Maria Teresa mais um livro para casa. Asneira!
Não é um romance. É um ensaio (ou será uma enciclopédia?), onde a autora - enquanto faz conserva de alperces - vai divagando sobre a mãe, os livros que leu, as viagens que fez, as histórias que ouviu, a política, o cinema, a arte, as doenças, e o diabo a sete...enfim, uma grande caldei
Jenny (Reading Envy)
In The Faraway Nearby, Rebecca moves between her mother's illness and death, apricots, a trip to Iceland, cancer, and quite a few other topics. They are woven together in an impressive way, and the topic that starts is the topic that ends the book.

I connected the most with the parts about her relationship with her mother because of my own current personal experiences.
“I thought of my mother as a book coming apart, pages drifting away, phrases blurring, letters falling off, the paper returning t
Sian Lile-Pastore
May 21, 2013 Sian Lile-Pastore rated it it was amazing
Rebecca Solnit has become one of my favourite writers, and I think 'Faraway Nearby' is the best yet. The book starts off about storytelling and how we connect through stories and how our lives are stories and through this we learn that Solnit's mother has Alzheimers and is losing her stories and memories and her connection to others. From this starting point Solnit also discusses art (yoko ono, Olafur Eliasson, Roni Horn, Ana Teresa Fernandez and more), literature (there is a fascinating bit abo ...more
Dec 09, 2013 Karima rated it it was amazing
I picked this book up because I liked the title (derived from how Georgia O'Keefe signed her letters to loved ones). If I had read the blurb telling me that it was about her mother's Alzheimer's, I never would have picked it up. SO glad that I did NOT know this.
This woman is BRILLIANT! She blends essays (about such topics as Che Guevera, leprosy, Frankenstein and Iceland) and memoir around the central theme of her troubled relationship with her mother. DON'T be put off that it's another memoir a
Claire McAlpine
Jun 19, 2013 Claire McAlpine rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Chapters or essays, with a book that reads like a Russian doll, opening out and then closing up again. It starts with the physical gift of 100 pounds of apricots, which reappear as metaphor and metamorphosis as they like the author change.

In the author's case there are the physical events around including her mother's decline into Alzheimer's and her own perceptions, enhanced by a residency offered by ArtAngel within the art installation, Library of Ice in Iceland.

For me the book can never be s
Richard Gilbert
Jan 01, 2014 Richard Gilbert rated it really liked it
The Faraway Nearby opens with 100 pounds of apricots, collected from her ailing mother’s tree, ripening and rotting on Solnit’s floor, a bequest and a burden as if from a fairy tale. The fruit was a story, she explains, and also “an invitation to examine the business of making and changing stories.” So Solnit tells her own story, shows how she escaped it by entering the wider world of others’ stories, and how she changed her story as she better understood her unhappy mother and their bad relatio ...more
Francesca Marciano
Oct 03, 2013 Francesca Marciano rated it really liked it
It's now official: I am in love with Rebecca Solnit. I love the way she connects things, her brilliant associations are like a bird flight over a vast, encompassing landscape. She will take you from a room filled with ripening apricots to a cabin in the Arctic circle where a man breathes and his breath turns to ice till the room turns into an ice cave where he can hardly move, to a Museum in Iceland, called the museum of water, to a dark labyrinth lit by a bluish glow, she will explain why heat ...more
Apr 13, 2016 Dan rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books I want everybody I know to read. It's a brilliantly observed meditation on narrative—the stories of our lives, works of fiction, history, all of it. Solnit weaves together seemingly disconnected threads into a rich tapestry that develops lazily across the pages. The essays are stand-alone but do not exist in a vacuum, kind of like us. They owe a debt to each other and are best understood in context.

If you liked this, make sure to follow me on Goodreads for more review
Josephine Ensign
Oct 08, 2013 Josephine Ensign rated it it was ok
When I read this book I kept remembering the experience of reading When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams. Both have what I call printed conceits (probably a misuse of the term 'conceit') such as Williams' use of her flying birds motif and Solnit's running footer that is a story within a story within a story... Both have as a central theme the mother-daughter relationship. Both have larger and intermingling, connected themes like empathy and women finding their way, finding their voices ...more
Neal Adolph
Rebecca Solnit is a woman who wields her intelligence as her greatest weapon. It is a strong sword whose blade is revealed many times in this fascinating book. About six months ago I started following her on facebook and have many times been impressed by the journalism she writes and the short updates she provides to her followers. She cares about things deeply and, quite often, they appear to be the right things to care about. The environment, refugees, human rights, dignity. Solnit's moral com ...more
Aug 18, 2013 Carolyn rated it it was amazing
So good!

This book is a pretty intense philosophical meditation on the author's part that really can't help but trigger some deep reflection on the reader's part. Writing about the end of her mother's life and descent into a fog of dementia, Solnit reflects on their warped relationship spinning out to touch on farflung geographies and stories, tropes and beliefs from many different cultures.

Things I particularly enjoyed: thinking about stories/lives as the thread in a tapestry like Penelope's tha
Dec 13, 2013 Lauren rated it it was amazing
"Maybe the word forgive points in the wrong direction, since it's something you mostly give yourself, not anyone else: you put down the ugly weight of old suffering, untie yourself from the awful, and walk away from it. Forgiveness is otherwise a public act or a reconciliation between two parties, but what goes on in the heart is a more uncertain process; suddenly or gradually something no longer matters, as though you have traveled out of range or outlived it. Then sometimes it returns just as ...more
Ian Griffin
Jun 27, 2013 Ian Griffin rated it it was amazing
Love this quote from Ch 2:

"I talked about places, about the ways that we often talk about love of place, by which we mean our love for places, but seldom of how places love us back, of what they give us.

They give us continuity, something to return to, and offer a familiarity that allows some portion of our own lives to remain connected and coherent. They give us an expansive scale in which our troubles are set into context, in which the largess of the world is a balm to loss, trouble, and ugline
Oct 18, 2014 Cecilia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If apricots are the metaphorical foundation for Solnit's story, then the reader sampling these apricots would find them to taste like vegetables.

The first chapter is about her ailing mother. How her mother was envious, childish, unreasonable. How her brothers didn't do half the work Solnit had to. With all the negativity oozing onto these page, you would think that the author spent her whole life in internal conflict and passive aggression, with no more than an ounce of happiness or sympathy tow
Jul 04, 2014 Lucinda rated it it was amazing
Rebecca Solnit is an alchemist with words - she takes the ordinary and everyday and makes it fresh, profound and affecting.
The Faraway Nearby is a series of essays on seemingly mundane topics in which Solnit draws the reader in (to where? I don't know ... somewhere I can honestly say only a few writers have taken me before) with the connections she makes between the everyday and foundational, though often shadowy or hidden, truths. A pile of apricots becomes an examination of mythical/ fairytal
Jan 15, 2014 Paul rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
"Never turn down an adventure without a really good reason."

This is my first book I read by Rebecca Solnit. And if one is not familiar with her eloquent (and maybe "convoluted") style of writing, then "The Faraway Nearby" may come off as pretentious or off-putting. Her focus on herself may seem narcissistic. I admit, this was my initial impression when I began this book, and was tempted to retire it thirty pages into it. But it turned out to not be any of those negative things, and I feel lucky
Oct 15, 2013 Brinley rated it really liked it
What I like most about Solnit is her ability to weave multiple subjects into a cohesive prose, without it coming across scattered or pretentious. Ultimately, the variety of topics covered are all used to illustrate the ways that we deliver and interpret stories. I connected with the strain of the relationship with her mother, and found it comforting that despite the empathy we can practice toward others, it can be hard to force that in a difficult familial tie, despite how much they may need our ...more
Owain Lewis
Feb 21, 2016 Owain Lewis rated it it was amazing
A beaut of a book, truly adventurous writing. Starts as a memoir and takes you off down so many different paths. Solnit is one of those writers who follows a thought and uses it to map out a territory of seemingly unrelated ideas, so that you end up in unexpected places without even realising you've moved. Uncategorisable, brilliant and full of heart and head talking to each other, and it's got that whole West Coast looking East Zen vibe that I love.
Feb 28, 2014 Michelle rated it really liked it
This book fell into my lap when I was least expecting it. I read it swiftly and was carried away by it.
The fact that it echoes my current obsession with The North, mountaineers, etc., only helped it along. Add some apricot preserves and fairy tales and Frankenstein. A nearly perfect book.
Some of the images and ideas are arresting. They make you aware of your own life, and its path. Highly recommended.
In The Faraway Nearby, there is ticker of sorts at the bottom margin of the book. It's a running marquee where Rebecca Solnit tells a continuous story about the Madagascar moth, the Hemiceratoides hieroglyphica, that drinks the "tears of sleeping birds." Solnit writes about the moth and the birds as two characters in orbit with each other, a “… a sleeper and a drinker, a giver and a taker, and what are tears to the former is food to the latter.” It's a story that rolls across the pages, literall ...more
Nov 12, 2014 Amanda rated it really liked it
I love Rebecca Solnit's writing and for the most part really enjoyed these. I did find it to be a bit rambling in the middle but that's part of her style. I personally liked A Field Guild To Getting Lost better but this one is certainly worth the read. Here are some of my favorite lines.

"Books are the solitudes in which we meet."

"Another thing to come to terms with was that there was no preventing or changing the course of events: the disease was a road she was going to go down no matter what. A
Jun 22, 2013 Themiddlevoice rated it it was amazing
Read now. Read again and again and again. Read always. Absorb, take lessons, take heart, and use this book to delve into your life.
Dec 01, 2014 Bailey rated it really liked it
Overall, I'm really glad I read this. It took me a really long time, because ultimately it wasn't what I wanted it to be. More than an exploration of her mother's battle with dementia (which, somehow, is how I interpreted it before buying), this is a story of Solnit dealing with that while undergoing surgery and traveling to Iceland. I suppose the jacket copy listed here is accurate - it's those things mixed with stories, folklore, etc. Overall, this is a story of losses and how we, as humans, h ...more
Jun 15, 2014 Shel rated it it was amazing
Beautiful and brilliant, lush and lyrical. Many insights and ideas interwoven.

It's about storytelling, and memory, parents, surgery, The Motorcycle Diaries, apricots, vanitas paintings, Iceland, and mortality.

I love the way Solnit thinks and explores her world and makes connections and expands mine. "A book is a heart that only beats in the chest of another," writes Solnit. This book beat in mine.

I read it with a pink highlighter in hand rapidly turning the pages pink, making the striking pass
Abby Frucht
Jan 20, 2014 Abby Frucht rated it it was amazing
I was fairly blown away by this book. I wish she didn't take herself so seriously...but maybe she wouldn't be able to trust her own instincts so well if she did....I love the certainty of the text, the knowledge, the information, and the stories from outside the self that are brought to these pages in the service of self, and vice versa. In addition to trusting her instincts she trusts her reader, or rather, trusts that her readers will select themselves carefully; that is, she doesn't try to at ...more
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The World's Liter...: The Faraway Nearby / Rebecca Solnit 21 20 Nov 29, 2014 04:56PM  
  • Forty-one False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers
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  • Ongoingness: The End of a Diary
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  • This Is Running for Your Life: Essays
  • Living, Thinking, Looking: Essays
  • Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays
  • Alibis: Essays on Elsewhere
  • Papeles falsos
  • Things That Are
  • Heroines
  • Stranger Magic: Charmed States & The Arabian Nights
  • Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture
  • A Book Of Silence
  • Granta 127: Japan
  • The Book of My Lives
  • Loitering: New & Collected Essays
  • White Girls
Rebecca Solnit is an American author who often writes on the environment, politics, place, and art. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications in print and online, including the Guardian newspaper and Harper's Magazine, where she is the first woman to regularly write the Easy Chair column founded in 1851. She is also a regular contributor to the political blog TomDispatch and to LitHub.

More about Rebecca Solnit...

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“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.” 39 likes
“Listen: you are not yourself, you are crowds of others, you are as leaky a vessel as was ever made, you have spent vast amounts of your life as someone else, as people who died long ago, as people who never lived, as strangers you never met. The usual I we are given has all the tidy containment of the kind of character the realist novel specializes in and none of the porousness of our every waking moment, the loose threads, the strange dreams, the forgettings and misrememberings, the portions of a life lived through others’ stories, the incoherence and inconsistency, the pantheon of dei ex machina and the companionability of ghosts. There are other ways of telling.” 39 likes
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