Tossing Rebecca Solnit’s Book Onto the Coffee Table Because I Have To Get Ready To Go to My Stupid Job
Over my head, I see the clock
telling me it’s time
to go to my stupid job
so I toss the fascinating book
by Rebecca Solnit who has built
an entire career from wandering
around the world, reading about shit,
and writing great books about it.
I have wasted my life.
So I’m poking a little fun at James Wright and myself, but really, what a great body of writing Rebecca Solnit has created. Working in what I think of as an extended essay form she has considered the world and its quirky inhabitants from many angles, most having to do in one form or another with the peripatetic nature of our species. I’ve read The Faraway Nearby, Wanderlust, and A Book of Migrations, all exploring the movement of humans away from home. I love the essay form — not memoir particularly nor funny story, but a meditation on things, an attempt to learn and make sense of something in the world, whether it be cancer and the environment and human connections, as Terry Tempest Williams’s Refuge, or the brain and the incredible adaptability of human in Oliver Sacks’s books, or John McPhee’s widely wandering curiosity about places. I have tried and failed at the essay form myself, and I’m not sure why. But I think it has something to do with commitment. The essayist takes a shovel and starts digging for China and doesn’t stop until he or she gets there, or somewhere, or comes to some wonderful conclusion about the act of digging. I pick up a shovel, dig a couple of feet down, then stop and call a travel agent to book a flight, because fuck this. I love reading essays because I, the reader, reap the fascinating benefits of not only what the writers found through their hard work and thinking but what they have made — crafted, concluded, raised new questions about — of what they have found. I don’t have the gumption for the form myself. But wherever Solnit, Dillard, Lopez, and the gang dig a hole, I’ll gladly jump in.