Seinfeld and Solnit
Seinfeld was “a show about nothing,” but we couldn’t get enough of it because each of us knew a George, an Elaine, and a Kramer.
Rebecca Solnit’s book, The Faraway Nearby, reminds me of Seinfeld. I love this book, but I can’t really explain what it’s about. Solnit can write about nothing and keep you mesmerized. Sort of like Tom Robbins, but entirely different.
I’m not sure what else to tell you.
“In this gorgeously written and insightful book, Solnit weaves essay and memoir so that the nature of the story itself is sharply drawn from every imaginable angle. Personal history, geography, maps, ice, mirrors, and breath play back and forth, as the structural threads of narrative are wound, knotted, and unwound… In a world increasingly bereft of the genuine, Solnit’s writing shines with heart, wit, and soul.” – Lindsay Hill, Publishers Weekly
“The product of a remarkable mind at work, one able to weave a magnificent number of threads into a single story, demonstrating how all our stories are interconnected.”
“A brilliant, genre-refuting book.” – San Francisco Chronicle
Here is an example of what those people – and me – are trying to describe:
“I used to go to Ocean Beach, the long strip of sand facing the churning Pacific at the end of my own city, for reinforcement, and it always put things in perspective, a term that can be literal too. The city turned into sand and the sand into surf and the surf into ocean and just to know that the ocean went on for many thousands of miles was to know that there was an outer border to my own story, and even to human stories, and that something else picked up beyond. It was the familiar edge of the unknown, forever licking at the shore.”
“I found books and places before I found friends and mentors, and they gave me a lot, if not quite what a human being would. As a child, I spun outward in trouble, for in that inside-out world, everywhere but home was safe. Happily, the oaks were there, the hills, the creeks, the groves, the birds, the old dairy and horse ranches, the rock outcroppings, the open space inviting me to leap out of the personal into the embrace of the nonhuman world.”
“Once when I was in my late twenties, I drove to New Mexico with my friend Sophie, a fierce, talented, young black-haired green-eyed whirlwind who had not yet found her direction. We had no trouble convincing ourselves it was worthwhile to drive the two days each way to New Mexico because there was a darkroom there that she could use to print photographs for a project we had. In those days we were exploring what we wished to become, what the world might give us, and what we might give it, and so, though we did not know it, wandering was our real work anyway.”
“I had discovered the desert west a few years before with the force of one falling in love and had learned something of how to enter it and move through it…”
– Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby, p. 31-32
We relate to Seinfeld because we, too, have had Jerry’s friends but called them by different names.
We relate to Rebecca Solnit because we, too, have felt alone, discarded, and ignored.
We relate to Rebecca because we have driven to New Mexico with a crazy friend.
Who was your crazy friend?
What crazy things did you do together?
How did it happen that you fell out of touch?
Roy H. Williams