Author and activist Solnit (The Faraway Nearby) synthesizes many different topics (urban gardening, ecology, activism, art, storytelling, culture, history, politics, democracy, etc.) into one mesmerizing volume of 29 previously published essays. These expansive essays range from the sheer beauty of an Arctic expedition to the “post-American landscape of Detroit,” Iceland before and after the 2008 global financial meltdown, the Zapatista territory in Mexico, and Carnival in New Orleans. Solnit takes on the “hydrological madness” in the American West, the ongoing repercussions of the BP oil spill, the aftermath of Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the lack of face-to-face contact in the silicon age, the “violence” of climate change, Occupy Wall Street, and the Arab Spring, among other subjects. With discursive and poetic prose, she moves fluidly from the macramé and decorative kitsch of the 1970s to how that “terrible” and “generative” decade planted the seeds for reproductive rights, grassroots politics, and organic farming. No matter how far Solnit ventures, she returns to her home landscape—San Francisco, “once a great city of refuge for dissidents, queers, pacifists and experimentalists,” now undergoing profound changes as a result of the tech boom—and she bemoans how Silicon Valley has made California the center rather than the edge. Though she sees disaster looming in many quarters, she also finds generosity and resistance everywhere, and these lyrical essays stress the importance of collective action and community. (Nov.)
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