Rebecca Solnit (born 1961) is an author, cultural historian, and activist. Her work is penetrating, insightful, and illuminating. I believe that Solnit is one of the essential writers of our time.
Elsewhere, I have discussed her book Hope in a Dark Time: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities (2004). Read my discussion here.
Hope in the Dark is an optimistic and hopeful examination of the benefits and changes brought about in society by activists’ movements over the past few decades both nationally and globally. The connections she discusses and illuminates (e.g., in the anti nuclear movement) are astonishing. Hope in the Dark is my favorite book of Solnit’s, and one of my favorites in general!
Elsewhere I have also mentioned Savage Dreams: A Journey into the Hidden Wars of the American West (1994) as a fine book about the American West. In Savage Dreams, Solnit ties together the hidden histories of Yosemite and the Nevada Nuclear Test Site convincingly. Illuminating. Read my book review/essay here.
A prolific author, Solnit has also written several other books, including Wanderlust: A History of Walking (2000), As Eve Said to the Serpent: On Landscape, Gender, and Art (2001); River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West (2003); and Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics (2007). River of Shadows won a 2003 National Book Award for Criticism. Her newest book is A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster (2009); sounds very timely.
Wanderlust is on my reading list. I love how Solnit has a series of quotes on walking scrolling (strolling?) across the bottom of the pages throughout her book. Delightful.
As a cultural historian, Solnit delves deep into her subject matter, draws out connections, provides insights and illuminates our past and our present. She frequently begins with landscapes and explains links between landscapes, culture, and technology in great detail.
Solnit’s touchstone in conducting her research may well be a quote by Walter Benjamin, “Nothing that has ever happened should be regarded as lost for history.” [used in the frontspiece of Hope in the Dark].
Indeed. Solnit is working to illuminate our landscapes, culture, and history – and in doing so, deepens our understanding immensely.