The Faraway Nearby
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The Faraway Nearby

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  935 ratings  ·  196 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...more
Hardcover, 259 pages
Published June 13th 2013 by Viking Adult (first published June 6th 2013)
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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
Karima
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...more
Suzanne
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...more
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...more
Carolyn
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...more
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
Paul
"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...more
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...more
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...more
Lauren
"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
Brinley
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
Michelle
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.
Lucinda
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...more
Themiddlevoice
Read now. Read again and again and again. Read always. Absorb, take lessons, take heart, and use this book to delve into your life.
Claudia
Love love love this writer. Reading her gives me so much pleasure, my heart explodes.
Shel
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...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...more
Jeff Scott
The most gifted of writers can enchant with the simplest of tools. They can conjure the most fantastical tales from something as simple as a word. Rebecca Solnit’s memoir is a noir fairytale journey through our deepest darkest selves. A cathartic journey through grief, wading through the river until it washes away and you are transformed into something new and unknown. These are the kinds of stories we want to read over and over again to remind us of our human selves.

Solnit’s memoir is mostly a...more
Kerfe
"Who drinks your tears, who has your wings, who hears your story?"

Those are the concluding words of Solnit's meditation on the title of a scientific paper, "Moths drink the tears of sleeping birds," that runs along the bottom pages of the main text from beginning to end. And it's a good conclusion to the essays that she has composed in "The Faraway Nearby".

I feel that the book could be approached from many different directions--there are tangents and journeys everywhere, yet the center holds.

The...more
Renee
I was not at all familiar with this author and I absolutely loved her writing and will read more of her works for sure. It's not an exaggeration to say that at times I was awestruck with her literary genius.

What I loved about this book was the story of her relationship with her aging Alzheimer afflicted mother; it was true, raw and so captivating, that I felt distracted every time she left this tale to talk about the synergies between her story and German Fairy Tales,or Mary Shelley's Frankenste...more
Iva
Solnit is a brilliant observer; she can take a variety of unrelated topics and somehow they are connected. Included in these essays are: her relationship with her mother, Che Guevara and leprosy, her own health problems, apricots, Iceland and many others. Don't worry if these may not appear to grab your interest--you will be enthralled by her inventive prose, her wisdom and clear thinking. I am a fan.
Francesca Marciano
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
Ingrid
***Won book in goodreads giveaway***

I could not do it. I tried and tried over again to keep going. I feel a sense of duty to complete books I win, but I gave it twice as long as I normally would for a book I didn't win.

The Faraway Nearby is partially about the author's mother's dementia. Most however it is musings and meanderings about other thoughts loosely tied to this. Some of the meanderings were interesting, but most went on and on and on do much they became hard to follow mostly because I...more
Elizabeth
There are some truly beautiful images in this thoughtful and resonant memoir. I was particularly taken by Solnit's metaphorical descriptions of significant apricots in relation to her relationship with her mother. Indeed, her mother's decline into worsening dementia of Alzheimer's is poignant, and I found these stories more interesting than the northern arctic vignettes.
I love language, and clearly so does Solnit- her use of etymology and homonym ( path/pathos, vanity/hevel/breath, emergency) t...more
Nlimprecht
Sep 15, 2014 Nlimprecht is currently reading it
From page 12: "Memory, even in the rest of us, is a shifting, fading, partial thing, a net that doesn't catch all the fish by any means and sometimes catches butterflies that don't exist."
Ingrid Lola
I want to be Rebecca Solnit when I grow up
Sandy
The Faraway Nearby, by Rebecca Solnit.
Stories inside stories, starting with the story of Solnit’s mother succumbing to Alzheimer’s disease. First the disruptive antagonistic mother, seemingly resentful of her daughter’s blonde good looks and much more in her life.The story of Frankenstein and his monster leads to the story of Mary Shelley, the young author. The book ends up analyzing the edges of the self; after the mother gradually and irrevocably becoming someone else, a long chapter details t...more
Full Stop
Jun 10, 2014 Full Stop added it
Shelves: summer-2013
http://www.full-stop.net/2013/06/04/r...

Review by Teow Lim Goh

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” Rebecca Solnit quotes Joan Didion in her memoir The Faraway Nearby. In The White Album, an essay on the fragmentation of the late sixties, Didion continues, “I am talking here about a time when I began to doubt the premises of all the stories I had ever told myself, a common condition but one I found troubling.” To this allusion Solnit adds, “Stories are compasses and architecture; we navi...more
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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...
A Field Guide to Getting Lost Wanderlust: A History of Walking Men Explain Things to Me 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.” 20 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.” 19 likes
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