The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness by Rebecca Solnit, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness

The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness

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by Rebecca Solnit

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The incomparable Rebecca Solnit, author of more than a dozen acclaimed, prizewinning books of nonfiction including Men Explain Things To Me, brings the same dazzling writing to the essays in The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness; hailed by the Los Angeles Times as "globally wide-ranging and topically urgent and the Boston Globe


The incomparable Rebecca Solnit, author of more than a dozen acclaimed, prizewinning books of nonfiction including Men Explain Things To Me, brings the same dazzling writing to the essays in The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness; hailed by the Los Angeles Times as "globally wide-ranging and topically urgent and the Boston Globe as "luminous and precise.". As the title suggests, the territory of Solnit’s concerns is vast, and in her signature alchemical style she combines commentary on history, justice, war and peace, and explorations of place, art, and community, all while writing with the lyricism of a poet to achieve incandescence and wisdom.

Gathered here are celebrated iconic essays along with little-known pieces that create a powerful survey of the world we live in, from the jungles of the Zapatistas in Mexico to the splendors of the Arctic. This rich collection tours places as diverse as Haiti and Iceland; movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring; an original take on the question of who did Henry David Thoreau’s laundry; and a searching look at what the hatred of country music really means.

Solnit moves nimbly from Orwell to Elvis, to contemporary urban gardening to 1970s California macramé and punk rock, and on to searing questions about the environment, freedom, family, class, work, and friendship. It’s no wonder she’s been compared in Bookforum to Susan Sontag and Annie Dillard and in the San Francisco Chronicle to Joan Didion.

The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness proves Rebecca Solnit worthy of the accolades and honors she’s received. Rarely can a reader find such penetrating critiques of our time and its failures leavened with such generous heapings of hope. Solnit looks back to history and the progress of political movements to find an antidote to despair in what many feel as lost causes. In its encyclopedic reach and its generous compassion, Solnit’s collection charts a way through the thickets of our complex social and political worlds. Her essays are a beacon for readers looking for alternative ideas in these imperiled times.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Alice Gregory
It is tempting to compare Solnit to that other native Californian with an X-ray vision for silent despair—Joan Didion—but Solnit's pathos, if sometimes less poetic, often feels more serious and more earned.
Kirkus Reviews
In her latest collection of previously published essays, Solnit (Men Explain Things to Me, 2014, etc.) explores troubled and troubling spaces and places that illuminate her concerns about community and power. How, asks the author, do individuals express their sense of connection to one another when they respond to disasters, such as hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the BP oil spill, and the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan? How do communities come together for their common good? What social and political forces create a truly civil society? Solnit's travels have taken her around the world, including Kyoto and Fukushima, Iceland, Mexico, Detroit and New Orleans: "Wherever I went," she writes, "I remained preoccupied with democracy and justice and popular power, with how change can be wrought in the streets and by retelling the story, with the power of stories to get things wrong as well as right…and with the beauties of light, space, and solidarity." Traversing time as well as space, she reflects on the social activism of the 1960s and '70s that gave rise to communes, organic farms, and queer rights and feminist movements; sometimes chaotic and unfocused, this activism, she believes, sparked later progressive changes. Solnit is a fan of peaceful revolutions, which makes her impatient with the passivity that she observed in Iceland, where people seem intimidated in the face of severe environmental problems. Argentina, she notes, stands as a strong example of a politically engaged society uniting in protest in the face of economic disaster. Astounded by Icelandic acquiescence, Solnit urges her own contemporaries to take action on such issues as climate change, drought, urban blight, the tainting of soil by heavy metals, irresponsible oil drilling and the use of toxic dispersants. In her 2006 commencement talk at the University of California, Solnit implored new graduates to remake the universe by changing stories of the past and reinventing stories for the future; that advice informs these thoughtful, eloquent and often inspiring essays.
Publishers Weekly
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.)
From the Publisher
"What to call a journalist who writes about place while avoiding the subjects of luxury hotels, remote restaurants and urbane oddities? Not a travel writer, surely. And not an adventurer. One could do worse than answer with 'Rebecca Solnit'." —The New York Times Book Review

"Insights that are acute and meaningful.... [It] leads to a different, more layered understanding of the world around us." —Utne Reader

"Thoughtful, eloquent and often inspiring essays." —Kirkus Reviews

"The 29 essays that make up Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness are global in their reach, combining meditations on history, politics, science, art, literature, climate change and natural disasters, and take us from the snowy tundra of the Arctic to the carnival-filled streets of New Orleans." —The Daily Beast

"One mesmerizing volume...these lyrical essays stress the importance of collective action and community." —Publishers Weekly

"Refreshingly coherent, profoundly smart." —BBC News

"Globally wide-ranging and topically urgent . . . will surely solidify her reputation as one of our most independent and necessary freelance intellectuals." —Los Angeles Review of Books

"An amazing potpourri...she brings a clarity to the messiness of ideas." —Minnesota Public Radio

"One of our most provocative, thoughtful essayists." —Austin American-Statesman

“A sublime collection of essays. . . . a remarkable read.” —Brain Pickings

"Beautifully written and fiercely argued....showcases the work of an impressive intellect and a brilliant writer." —Shelf Awareness

"Whatever the subject, let’s just get out of the way and let the gifted woman write." —Foreword Reviews

"One of the most magnificent writers of our time." —The Guardian

"Solnit’s essays showcase the range and power not only of nonfiction, but of words themselves." —The Rumpus

"Interesting, insightful and always surprising." —Houston Chronicle

"Lives up to the promise of its ambitious title." —KQED, San Francisco

"Solnit's finely wrought essays probe lofty issues in ways that make them feel intensely personal." —O: The Oprah Magazine

"Luminous and precise, Solnit persuades, educates, and inspires.” —The Boston Globe

"It's sort of an encyclopedia and sort of isn't. It's really an anthology disguised as an encyclopedia. But no matter what label you attach to it, the important thing to remember about this book is that it was written by Rebecca Solnit, one of the best nonfiction writers working today." —Chicago Tribune

Product Details

Trinity University Press
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6.20(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

San Francisco writer Rebecca Solnit is the author of fifteen books about art, landscape, public and collective life, ecology, politics, hope, meandering, reverie, and memory. They include Men Explain Things To Me, The Faraway Nearby; Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas; A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster; Storming the Gates of Paradise; A Field Guide to Getting Lost; Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities; Wanderlust: A History of Walking; As Eve Said to the Serpent: On Landscape, Gender, and Art; and River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West, for which she received a Guggenheim fellowship, the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism, and the Lannan Literary Award. Solnit has worked with climate change, Native American land rights, antinuclear, human rights, and antiwar issues as an activist and journalist. She is a contributing editor to Harper’s and a frequent contributor to the political site and has made her living as an independent writer since 1988.

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