The Faraway Nearby


Rebecca Solnit’s latest book, a series of essays loosely about story­telling, has a table of contents that sits on the page like a mountain tipped on its side. The essays’ titles mirror or refract one another, imparting symmetry. The summit, a chapter titled “Knot,” evokes another of the book’s metaphors, the bringing together of narrative threads. The tipped mountain shape resembles the traditional rise and fall of story structure. But this isn’t the only visual conceit. “Imagine all the sentences in this book as a single thread around the spool that is a book,” Solnit writes. You needn’t imagine it, though: One unspooled essay runs like a news ticker along the base of every page. Shape as a preoccupation makes sense in a book about storytelling. Shapes and lines create order out of chaos, or at least highlight possible orderly paths through it. Solnit’s personal “story of sorts” brings together episodes from a difficult year in her life, one that included a breakup, a brush with her own mortality, and her mother’s descent into Alzheimer’s.

more from Robin Romm at the NY Times here.