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180 pages, ebook
First published March 14, 2017
"If our voices are essential aspects of our humanity, to be rendered voiceless is to be dehumanized or excluded from one's humanity."The idea of who isn't at the table, of whose voice isn't represented, is just as important.
"If libraries hold all the stories that have been told, there are ghost libraries of all the stories that have not."And she examines what happens when power consumes others voices, controlling the news, controlling the narrative.
"It's as though the voices of these prominent public men devoured the voices of others into nothingness, a narrative cannibalism."And this essay was written before our very young presidency, which has done nothing but sign presidential orders to silence more voices. It cuts deep in these days. Solnit also takes a look at male silence, and the expectation particularly for straight men to stay true to the narrative of power. Then she spins it around and examines how this perpetuates violence against women.
"Love is a constant negotiation... to love someone is to lay yourself open to rejection and abandonment; love is something you can earn but not extort... so much sexual violence is a refusal of that vulnerability.""Men Explain Lolita to Me" is a bit of a continuation of the well-known essay, "Men Explain Things to Me," (read online at LitHub about the white male reaction to her various statements on literature. She wrote a reaction to the GQ Magazine's article called "80 Books All Men Should Read" with, shall we say, a rather different response. The entire essay is worth a read, but a quote near the end stuck with me: "You read enough books in which people like you are disposable, or are dirt, or are silent, absent, or worthless, and it makes an impact on you. Because art makes the world, because it matters, because it makes us. Or breaks us."
The gun-penis-death thing is so sad as well as ugly. The terse, repressed prose style is, in his hands, mannered and pretentious and sentimental. Manly sentimental is the worst kind of sentimental, because it’s deluded about itself in a way that, say, honestly emotional Dickens never was.
Silence is the ocean of the unsaid, the unspeakable, the repressed, the erased, the unheard. It surrounds the scattered islands made up of those allowed to speak and of what can be said and who listens. Silence occurs in many ways for many reasons; each of us has his or her own sea of unspoken words.
The tranquility of a quiet place, of quieting one’s own mind, of a retreat from words and bustle, is acoustically the same as the silence of intimidation or repression but psychically and politically something entirely different. What is unsaid because serenity and introspection are sought is as different from what is not said because the threats are high or the barriers are great as swimming is from drowning. Quiet is to noise as silence is to communication. The quiet of the listener makes room for the speech of others, like the quiet of the reader taking in words on the page, like the white of the paper taking ink.
We are our stories, stories that can be both prison and the crowbar to break open the door of that prison; we make stories to save ourselves or to trap ourselves or others, stories that lift us up or smash us against the stone wall of our own limits and fears. Liberation is always in part a storytelling process: breaking stories, breaking silences, making new stories. A free person tells her own story. A valued person lives in a society in which her story has a place.
"Every day each of us invents the world and the self who meets that world, opens up or closes down space for others within that. Silence is forever being broken, and then like waves lapping over the footprints, the sandcastles and washed-up shells and seaweed, silence rises again."
—Rebecca Solnit on Silence, Pornography, and Feminist Literature