A Field Guide to Getting Lost

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Overview

Whether she is contemplating the history of walking as a cultural and political experience over the past two hundred years (Wanderlust), or using the life of photographer Eadweard Muybridge as a lens to discuss the transformations of space and time in late nineteenth-century America (River of Shadows), Rebecca Solnit has emerged as an inventive and original writer whose mind is daring in the connections it makes. A Field Guide to Getting Lost draws on emblematic moments and relationships in Solnit's own life to ...

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A Field Guide to Getting Lost

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Overview

Whether she is contemplating the history of walking as a cultural and political experience over the past two hundred years (Wanderlust), or using the life of photographer Eadweard Muybridge as a lens to discuss the transformations of space and time in late nineteenth-century America (River of Shadows), Rebecca Solnit has emerged as an inventive and original writer whose mind is daring in the connections it makes. A Field Guide to Getting Lost draws on emblematic moments and relationships in Solnit's own life to explore issues of wandering, being lost, and the uses of the unknown. The result is a distinctive, stimulating, and poignant voyage of discovery.

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Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker
This meditation on the pleasures and terrors of getting lost is—as befits its subject—less a coherent argument than a series of peregrinations, leading the reader to unexpected vistas. The word “lost,” Solnit informs us, derives from the Old Norse for disbanding an army, and she extrapolates from this the idea of striking “a truce with the wide world.” It’s the wideness of the world that entices: a map of this deceptively slender volume would include hermit crabs, who live in scavenged shells; marauding conquistadors; an immigrant grandmother committed to an asylum; white frontier children kidnapped by Indians; and Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.” Solnit imagines a long-distance runner accumulating moments when neither foot is on the ground, “tiny fragments of levitation,” and argues, by analogy, that in relinquishing certainty we approach, if only fleetingly, the divine.
Publishers Weekly
The virtues of being open to new and transformative experiences are rhapsodized but not really illuminated in this discursive and somewhat gauzy set of linked essays. Cultural historian Solnit, an NBCC award winner for River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West, allows the subject of getting lost to lead her where it will, from early American captivity narratives to the avant-garde artist Yves Klein. She interlaces personal and familial histories of disorientation and reinvention, writing of her Russian Jewish forebears' arrival in the New World, her experiences driving around the American west and listening to country music, and her youthful immersion in the punk rock demimonde. Unfortunately, the conceit of embracing the unknown is not enough to impart thematic unity to these essays; one piece ties together the author's love affair with a reclusive man, desert fauna, Hitchcock's Vertigo and the blind seer Tiresias in ways that will indeed leave readers feeling lost. Solnit's writing is as abstract and intangible as her subject, veering between oceanic lyricism ("Blue is the color of longing for the distance you never arrive in") and pens es about the limitations of human understanding ("Between words is silence, around ink whiteness, behind every map's information is what's left out, the unmapped and unmappable") that seem profound but are actually banal once you think about them. Agent, Bonnie Nadell at Frederick Hill Assoc. (July 11) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Solnit is an activist and cultural historian with an impressive literary background, having written Wanderlust: A History of Walking and Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities. Her latest mixes memories and storytelling in nine essays that take us through Solnit's life at different stages; the hodgepodge of her experiences creates a backdrop for topics ranging from her family and childhood to music, politics, culture, and movies. In "Daisy Chains," for example, Solnit writes about her family history and what makes it mysterious, suggesting that she became a historian in part because she had no history of her own and wanted to "tell the truth in a family in which truth was an elusive entity." The essay also provides details about the fate of Solnit's grandmother and great-grandmother, women whom Solnit describes as having disappeared both physically and emotionally from the lives of those around them. Though engaging and introspective, this book has quite a bit going on and might overwhelm readers at times. Solnit grounds each essay in her personal experiences, but her style requires close attention, concentration, and reflection in a way that can be tedious. Still, appropriate for most collections.-Valeda Dent, Hunter Coll. Lib., New York Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143037248
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/27/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 164,118
  • Product dimensions: 5.15 (w) x 7.77 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author


Rebecca Solnit is the author of numerous books, including Hope in the Dark, River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West, Wanderlust: A History of Walking, and As Eve Said to the Serpent: On Landscape, Gender, and Art, which was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism. In 2003, she received the prestigious Lannan Literary Award.
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Table of Contents

Open door 3
The blue of distance 27
Daisy chains 43
The blue of distance 63
Abandon 85
The blue of distance 111
Two arrowheads 127
The blue of distance 153
One-story house 177
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 8 of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 13, 2011

    Losing?

    This book defies classification, being part memoir and part some evanescent other -- a reverie perhaps. I found some of the writing hauntingly beautiful, but at the same time I was put off by its grammatical irregularities, as if it had been dictated into a machine that didn't frown on pronouns without antecedents or know the difference between "its" and "it's." And although I was initially charmed by the concept of getting "lost," I became increasingly disturbed by what I can only characterize as the extended expression of the writer's aesthetic and intellectual elitism. At the end, I couldn't figure out whether to be dazzled or annoyed.

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