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The Faraway Nearby

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  1,503 ratings  ·  290 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 (first published January 1st 2013)
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Tony I like the lack of explanation. It was a wonderful vindication to show to a granddaughter who is afraid of moths while liking butterflies.

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“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
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
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
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
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
Richard Gilbert
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
Claire McAlpine
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
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.
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
Josephine Ensign
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
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
"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
Ian Griffin
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
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
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
Read now. Read again and again and again. Read always. Absorb, take lessons, take heart, and use this book to delve into your life.
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
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
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
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
Patricia Murphy
What a beautiful title, and a lot of beautiful writing here. I started out giving it 3 stars because there were several sections I had to skim. I was not interested in the meditation on Frankenstein, or some of the lengthy descriptions of Iceland. It felt like a distraction from the story of the mother, which I wanted to know more about. But the ending brought me back to the energy of the beginning of the book. There were several sections that resonated with me and here are a few:

"We tell oursel
"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
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
Oct 19, 2014 Don rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: us
Meandering stream-of-wiki essays about empathy. Some of the anecdotes were new and interesting but others stale. Seemed pointless generally. If you are the type of person who can lose hours following one wikipedia reference to another this might feel comfortably familiar, dressed up in new age spirituality.
Abeer Hoque
“We think we tell stories, but stories often tell us, tell us to love or to hate, to see or be blind.”

I wouldn’t recommend the Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit to everyone. It took me more than a month to read less than 300 pages, as dense and philosophical as it is. If I glazed for a second, I had to reread the entire page again, sometimes the entire chapter.

“Empathy is first of all an act of imagination.”

Ms. Solnit describes the structure of the book as inspired by a 1001 nights, the stories
Love love love this writer. Reading her gives me so much pleasure, my heart explodes.
I find it hard to rate this because some parts of this are so good and then there are unrelated titbits and platitudes, passages that feel more like mismatched fragments from someone's blog or diary thrown together in a way that doesn't make them seem natural at all (and is sometimes stuck together by rather embarrassing babble -- the comparison of the roadrunner cartoon to "old Chinese" Toaism masters was far from the only unnecessary interlude). It starts really well, gets very clumsy fast, th ...more
"Many of the great humanitarian and environmental campaigns of our time have been to make the unknown real, the invisible visible, to bring the faraway near, so that the suffering of sweatshop workers, torture victims, beaten children, even the destruction of other species and remote places, impinges on the imagination and perhaps prompts you to act. It's also a narrative art of explaining the connections between your food or your clothing or your government and this suffering far from sight in ...more
Polly Trout
This is a very beautiful book of interlocking nonfiction essays that mix memoir, literary criticism, and philosophy; the book is an extended meditation on storytelling. I've also been studying the Buddhist philosophy of sunyata, which is normally translated as emptiness, so I was interested in her aside about the Latin word vanitas. Solnit writes,

"The word vanitas is only a step from the English word vanity, which has a host of pejorative meanings. It's a word that conveys futility, fruitlessne
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The World's Liter...: The Faraway Nearby / Rebecca Solnit 21 18 Nov 29, 2014 07:56AM  
  • Forty-one False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers
  • Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures
  • This Is Running for Your Life: Essays
  • Papeles falsos
  • The Two Kinds of Decay
  • Loitering: New and Collected Essays
  • Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays
  • The Wave in the Mind: Talks & Essays on the Writer, the Reader & the Imagination
  • Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture
  • Heroines
  • When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice
  • My Poets
  • My 1980s and Other Essays
  • Sightlines
  • To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction
  • Alibis: Essays on Elsewhere
  • How to Read a Novelist
  • The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion
Rebecca Solnit (b. 1961) is the author of numerous books, including Hope in the Dark, River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West, Wanderlust: A History of Walking, and As Eve Said to the Serpent: On Landscape, Gender, and Art, which was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism. In 2003, she received the prestigious Lannan Literary Award.
More about Rebecca Solnit...
Men Explain Things to Me A Field Guide to Getting Lost Wanderlust: A History of Walking River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster

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“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.” 29 likes
“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.” 26 likes
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