I loved this book. To the point where I had to stop reading it intermittently in order to make it last. (I can read a book very quickly, and then it is done).
I need to reread it, these notes are from a few months ago, and I want to offer it to various people I know; my Mother, my aunts, my friends, my bookclub. It also made me want to read everything she has ever written, as did 'Men Explain Things to Me' the essays I read before this (they made me want everyone to read them).
So, I will read everything I can get my hands on, beginning with 'The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness' which I have put down for other reasons – it's harder going, all that trouble – though Solnit manages to focus on community, humanity and hope in the direst of tragedies (Katrina, Fukushima and the BP Oil Spill). Her description of her experience of the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto is breathtaking. But here, now, from 'The Faraway Nearby'... I had trouble choosing bits to share here out of context.
The object we call a book is not the real book, but its potential, like a musical score or seed. It exists fully only in the act of being read; and its real home is inside the head of the reader, where the symphony resounds, the seed germinates. A book is a heart that only beats in the chest of another. The child I once was read constantly and hardly spoke, because she was ambivalent about the merits of communication, about the risks of being mocked or punished or exposed. The idea of being understood and encouraged, of recognising herself in another, of affirmation, had hardly occurred to her and neither had the idea that she had something to give others.
At its best, visual art is philosophy by other means and poetry without words. Visual art asks the grandest questions, about the most essential ingredients of existence: about time, space, perception, value, creation, identity, beauty. It makes mute objects speak and it renews the elements of the world through the unexpected, or it situates the everyday in a way that asks us to wake up and notice. This kind of art raises fundamental questions about the act of making, about what it means, whom it is for, what happens in that engagement with materials and history and embodied imaginations. I arrived in the realm of visual art in my early twenties, and it was a spacious arena in which to come of age, one that opened up the terrain in which I would travel to create and converse. I was invited into the conversation, to speak and to listen and to learn.
Who hears you? To have something to say is one thing; to have someone who hears it is another. To be heard literally is to have the vibrations of the air travel through the labyrinth of the listener's ear to the mind, but more must unfold in that darkness. You choose to hear what corresponds to your desires, needs and interests, and there are dangers in a world that corresponds too well, with curating your life into a mirror that reflects only the comfortable and familiar, and dangers in the opposite direction as well. Listen carefully.