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The Faraway Nearby

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  6,031 ratings  ·  805 reviews
In this 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 imagination. In the course of unpacking some of her own stories—of her mother and her decline from memory loss, of a trip to Iceland, of an illness—Solnit revisits fairytales and entertains othe ...more
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 re…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 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Tell me a story as if it were mine
Recommended to Dolors by: Cheryl
Stories weave us together.
What are memories but the stories we tell ourselves about our lives?
If we really listen to what others have to say, we leave aside the self-centered cocoon of our beings to venture across unknown oceans. That’s an unselfish act in itself, and the boat we sail on is called Empathy. Readers generally have a penchant for that. And so do writers.

Solnit’s hybrid essays, half travelogue memoir, half literary critique blended with intimate digressions on her life experiences,
Feb 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, recs
A wide-ranging meditation on illness, empathy, and art, The Faraway Nearby muses about what it means to transform a barren relationship and find authentic connection. At the core of the memoir is Solnit’s fraught bond with her mother; in lyrical prose, the author recollects the many battles the two waged against each other, and considers how their relationship changed in the wake of her mother’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s. All the while, Solnit discusses the lives and works of artists and activi ...more
3.5 insistent stars

This author had me eating out of the palm of her hand until she changed the treat to cilantro. Grimacing from the soap taste, I ran to load dirty dishes into the dishwasher, which, thank God, prevented me from loading paragraphs of cement into my poor brain. It threatened to collapse under the pressure.

Oh yes, she pulled me in tight at first, I was all entwined and smiley and silly with glee. And then just as quickly I wanted to flee. Suddenly my chores seemed very important.
Dec 28, 2014 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
Dec 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the whole experience of this book, how Solnit’s mind works with all the connections she makes. I can’t remember the last time I highlighted so much, from “I began thinking in fairy tales” to I have wondered if we want other language for emotion, if we would rather speak of deep and shallow because the things that move people to tears are sometimes joyous and because the attempts to ward off sadness so often ward off depth instead to “the endings [of fairy tales and fables] are not the ...more
"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 p
Sep 13, 2019 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jan-Maat by: Ilse
Everything changes.

Rebecca Solnit tells us that the essence of Zen Buddhism was once expressed as "Everything changes". In the context of the story that she tells, the narrative that she tugs out out of a slab of a couple of raw years of life that idea is a hopeful one, everything changes : from the painful relationship with her mother to her own cancer experience, there is death, loss and rebirth, change and welcome discontinuities. We experience this stage of her life as a labyrinth, a process
Jan 19, 2021 rated it liked it
This is a collection of stories or essays by Rebecca Solnit. This was on my TBR list because I read a favorable review from a GR reviewer. It was certainly worth the read. There were some stories/essays that resonated with me (or parts of them) and some which did not.

• Apparently the time period that occurred across the book was 20 years of the author’s life. In that time, her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and the disease got worse, turning the mother from a meanie mother to a c
Jun 15, 2013 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 in
Julie Christine
"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
I loved the first few chapters, I did not love the middle and was ready to give up, then I figured out the whole thing and the last two chapters and also "unwound" were great. I think this would have benefitted from me reading it as a physical book rather than on kindle, and also if I had read it after a big emotional moment in my life or a big loss. It was lovely, but I had to push myself to appreciate it after awhile rather than sinking into it. I will be back again. I get it, intellectually, ...more
Peter Boyle
Jul 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Rebecca Solnit is a writer I've always heard a lot about but never got around to reading. When she made the news recently with her remarkable essay on Trump, I realised it was high time I got my hands on one of her books. With her extensive oeuvre, it was hard to know where to begin, but The Faraway Nearby appealed to me with its focus on empathy and storytelling.

She describes this book as "a history of an emergency and the stories that kept me company." It explores a difficult time in her life,
Francesca Marciano
Sep 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-read
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
Katia N
Oct 31, 2019 rated it liked it
“Sometimes an extraordinary or huge question come alone we try to marry it off with a mediocre answer.” In this sentence taken from this book, Solnit has wonderfully explained my frustration with it. I’ve read it a few months ago, but i still remember the contradictory feelings from that experience. It was a mixture of delight and frustration, if you can imagine such a mixture. The delight was related to an elegant, beautifully aesthetic writing style and the book’s structure. She has based the ...more
Emma Sea
Feb 09, 2016 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
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
Julie Ehlers
"Sometimes an extraordinary or huge question comes along and we try to marry it off to a mediocre answer."

"To dig deeper into the self, to go underground, is sometimes necessary, but so is the other route of getting out of yourself, into the larger world, into the openness in which you need not clutch your story and your troubles so tightly to your chest."

"We make ourselves and in so doing are the gods of the small universe of self and the large world of repercussions."

"The patterns of our lives
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
Sep 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
My second Solnit, in this case a circular collection of essays that voyage halfway out before returning with the same titles as the first half. Mostly they deal with stories, how we are not unique yet are, how the pronoun "I" is really a composite of the many stories that fed into us as we grew.

Solnit is fond of repetition and writes poetically enough. She starts with her mother's battle against Alzheimer's and returns to same. In between you'll travel all over the place. In fact, in single essa
Sian Lile-Pastore
May 19, 2013 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 05, 2013 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
Richard Gilbert
Aug 09, 2013 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
Jun 02, 2013 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
Sep 09, 2014 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
Aug 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: The ones that are immersed in their story
Recommended to Deea by: Dolors
(better looking version of this review on my blog:
"We need to begin
To face the troubles we are in
We are waiting outside
To source our lives.

We need to find
Those moments we fly
We need to fly out
And back into line."
I was in a Greek island, walking on narrow streets guarded by flowers and Mediterranean plants, by fig trees, olive trees and ivy, listening to Sophie Zelmani’s album Everywhere, stopping every now and then and reading small fragments from t
Dec 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anna by: Yas
My final working day of 2017 is over, so for the remainder of the year I fully intend to spend most of my waking hours reading. (With breaks to catch up with family and friends.) Goodreads’ ‘Your year in books’ thus seems rather premature, as the last two weeks of December are usually my best reading time of the year. Anyway, I decided to read ‘Faraway Nearby’ because a) I greatly enjoyed Hope in the Dark and b) a friend who visited was reading and enjoying it. Solnit has a lyrical, novelistic s ...more
Jun 08, 2017 rated it liked it
"When the near capsized like a ship, the far swept me up."

I liked the previous book that I have read by Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, better than this one. That one is a more traditional collection of essays, each more contained with a clear internal logic and beautiful details to the end of that logic. This work is intentionally a rejection of that form, and it is much more in flux, much more like a memoir than essays, focusing largely on the power of stories and transformations. It fo
Josephine Ensign
Oct 08, 2013 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
Jan 19, 2013 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
Ron Christiansen
My 3rd or 4th Solnit book and I loved it. She speaks my inner language of doubt and angst but remains hopeful. Hard-earned. Not just the ideas; the structure in this book is exquisite. She starts with a 100 lbs of apricots her mother gave her. These apricots circle in and out of the narrative, a narrative far ranging from the personal story of her fight with breast cancer to a lengthy and heady literary criticism of Frankenstein and Mary Shelley.

Throughout she asks how do we bring the faraway ne
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The World's Liter...: The Faraway Nearby / Rebecca Solnit 21 29 Nov 29, 2014 07:56AM  

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Writer, historian, and activist Rebecca Solnit is the author of more than twenty books on feminism, western and indigenous history, popular power, social change and insurrection, wandering  and walking, hope and disaster, including Call Them By Their True Names (Winner of the 2018 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction), Cinderella LiberatorMen Explain Things to Me, The Mother of All Questions, and Hope in ...more

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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.” 99 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.” 91 likes
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