This week I finished Mary Pipher's The Green Boat,
and am sailing through Rebecca Solnit's the The Faraway Nearby, with occasional visits to Julian Agyeman's Introducing Just Sustainabilities,
and the final bits of Alice Walker's The Cushion in the Road.
It's Solnit's work I want to share here. Ranking writers is probably both a fruitless and foolish task, but let me say that there isn't a better writer, living today that I have read. I love the work of Wendell Berry, Terry Tempest Williams, David James Duncan, Alice Walker, Barbara Kingsolver to name a few. But Solnit never disappoints in her ability to carve with words indelible thoughts worthy of reflection.
In this latest work, a memoir of sorts, she probes deeply into her own search for meaning. An exploration that is still evolving. In it I found reflections and assertions that resonated deeply. I'm only halfway through but a few excerpts may hint as the power of her writing. Enjoy...
The Faraway Nearby (pp.63-64)
Libraries are sanctuaries from the world and command centers onto it: here in quiet rooms are the lives of Crazy Horse and Aung San Suu Kyi, the Hundred Years’ War and the Opium Wars and the Dirty War, the ideas of Simone Weil and Lao-tzu, information on building your sailboat or dissolving your marriage, fictional worlds and books to equip the reader to reenter the real world. They are, ideally, places where nothing happens and where everything that has happened is stored up to be remembered and relived, the place where the world is folded up into boxes of paper. Every book is a door that opens onto another world, which might be the magic that all those children’s books were alluding to, and a library is a Milky Way of worlds…
…The object we call a book is not the real book, but its potential, like a musical score or a seed. It exists fully only in the act of being read; and its real home is inside the head of the reader, where the symphony resounds, the seed germinates. A book is a heart that only beats in the chest of another.
The child I once was read constantly and hardly spoke, because she was ambivalent about the merits of communication, about the risks of being mocked or punished or exposed. The idea of being understood and encouraged, of recognizing herself in another, of affirmation, had hardly occurred to her and neither had the idea that she had something to give to others. So she read, taking in words in huge quantities, a children’s and then an adult novel a day for many years, seven days a week or so, gorging on books, fasting on speech, carrying piles of books home from the library.