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by Rebecca Solnit

Pub Date: July 11th, 2005
ISBN: 0-670-03421-5
Publisher: Viking

Largely autobiographical meditations and wanderings through landscapes external and internal.

National Book Critics Circle Award–winner Solnit (River of Shadows: Edward Muybridge and the Technological Wild West, 2003, etc.) roams through a large territory here. The book cries out for an explanatory subtitle: “field guide” shouldn’t be taken as a literal description of these eclectic memories, keen observations and provocative musings. Four of Solnit’s essays have the same title, “The Blue of Distance,” but the first segues from the blue in Renaissance paintings to a turquoise blouse the author wore as a child, then to the blue of distance seen on a walk across the drought-shrunken Great Salt Lake. The second presents Cabeza de Vaca, a Spanish explorer who wandered for years in the Americas, and then several white children taken captive by Indians; their stories demonstrate that a person can cease to be lost not only by returning, but also by turning into someone else. The third blue essay explores the world of country and western music, full of tales of loss and longing. The fourth introduces the eccentric artist Yves Klein, who patented the formula for his special electric blue paint and claimed to be launching a new Blue Age. How does it all fit in? Don’t ask, just enjoy, for Solnit is a captivating writer. Woven in and out of these four pieces and the five others that alternate with them are Solnit’s immigrant ancestors, lost friends, former lovers, favorite old movies, her own dreams, the house she grew up in, harsh deserts, animals on the edge of extinction and abandoned buildings. All become material for the author’s explorations of loss, losing and being lost.

Elegant essays marked by surprising shifts and unexpected connections.