When you read Rebecca Solnit, you are in effect reading a world. I don’t say this flippantly mind you. I say this with utmost earnestness because this is what her writing does to you. It makes you consider the world and what it is made of, what it is not and what it should be. It makes you think, feel and perhaps at some point change your life. I started my Rebecca Solnit journey when I read “A Field Guide to Getting Lost” which I highly recommend to one and all. This book that is “The Faraway Nearby” is all about storytelling and empathy in various forms and emotions as we live along the years.
“The Faraway Nearby” is a meditation of sorts – it quietly urges you to sometimes be alone and sometimes just observe the world as it goes by. I know maybe I am being too philosophical, but trust me when I say that this book makes you think logically and emotionally at the same time, which is a rare feat in itself.
So what is this book about?
It is about Solnit’s mother’s Alzheimer’s and the stories that weave through her childhood and adulthood, step by step as the disease unfolds itself and how those stories have helped her shape her life and destiny. It is also book the far-reaching impact of stories in our lives and how they make us who we are and stay with us right till the very end.
The book uncovers failed and successful relationships. It speaks of illness, mortality and its limitations, and of having an identity which is so prone to change and how to actually make it more stable. Solnit introspects all of this through a legacy of an abundant crop of apricots from a tree at her mother’s former home. The chapters are intertwined with memories, harsh realities and so many consolations in being alive and all of this is linked to the way those apricots are rotting and what she does with them.
“The Faraway Nearby” is an exploration, it is also a kaleidoscope, and it could also very well be just a manifesto on how to live (at least for me). It is not a self-help book. It does not preach. It does not sermonize. It just reflects and speaks of the world we live in and how stories and empathy are heavily dependent on each other.
Here are some quotes from the book to give you an idea of what the book is like:
“A book is a heart that only beats in the chest of another.”
“Books are solitudes in which we meet.”
“The present rearranges the past. We never tell the story whole because a life isn’t a story; it’s a whole Milky Way of events and we are forever picking out constellations from it to fit who and where we are.”
“The object we call a book is not the real book, but its potential, like a musical score or seed. It exists fully only in the act of being read; and its real home is in the head of the reader, where the symphony resounds, the seed germinates.A book is a heart that beats in the chest of another.”
“Pain serves a purpose. Without it you are in danger. What you cannot feel you cannot take care of.”