The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit
A review by Lindsey Bartlett
At the heart of it, Rebecca Solnit’s, The Faraway Nearby is not just about Solnit’s life. The Faraway Nearby is so much more than just a memoir; entwined with aspects of Solnit’s own life from her mother’s disintegrating memory to her own bout with illness, Solnit takes us into the lives of others both real and imaginary to help us better understand our own plights.
We are introduced to cast of characters from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to an artic cannibal and a young Che Guevara. Along the way, Solnit teaches her readers about kindness, imagination, and empathy. Solnit travels to Iceland where she lives in the Library of Water – formerly a library of books which is located on a hill that overlooks a harbor where each night she slept under these glaciers of frozen water.
Readers are treated to Solnit’s famous lyrical prose full of beautiful passages on her reading, her own life, her family, and on story, art, and history. Solnit’s memoir is not a story about just herself, but rather a story which opens into other stories in a way that is both compelling as well as profound. It is through the weaving together of all these threads that Solnit shows how all of our stories are interconnected, and why we create art and literature.
I leave you with a quote from the opening pages of The Faraway Nearby:
“We think we tell stories, but stories often tell us, tell us how to love, or to hate, to see or to be blind. Often, too often, stories saddle us, ride us, whip us onward, tell us what to do, and we do it without questioning. The task of learning to be free requires learning to hear them, to question them, to pause and hear silence, to name them and then to become the storyteller.”