Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Losing It

I've spent the day pleasantly adrift from all that should have been anchoring me (thesis work, horrible heat, the need for food) in the company of Rebecca Solnit's new book, A Field Guide to Getting Lost. What, you cry, another new book? What happened to the plan? Don't you read your own blog? Well, it's a funny story that mirrors both the idea of the blog and the subject of the book. Some time ago, I decided that I wasn't going to buy Hope in the Dark before the store returned it, but did a websearch on Rebecca Solnit because I remembered my friend Leo mentioning her to me. I came across some reference to her forthcoming book on getting lost, and ordered it from the store - then forgot about it. While hanging out of a weekend morning in the UK, I read a review, which I now can't find on the Guardian website (it's not like my media consumption is very broad). Then, magically, the book appeared with my name on it. For those of you for whom Solnit isn't even a vague memory, you could check out litblog Conversational Reading for a better guide than I can give you. But she's one of those authors that you switch onto when you need her, a lucky find, a samizdat secret. I'm full of envy because she writes without teaching - it would be unfair to call her books academic, but they contain both research and theory, as well as personal narrative and meditation. It's hard to sum up FGtGL, partially because the experience of reading it is about allowing your mind to meander, to notice what strike you as a reader. My course through the book will be utterly different to a reader with a different set of life experiences and interests. Like Benjamin, Solnit is a wanderer rather than a guide, and so ends up being a better guide because she doesn't claim to know the way. It's also a beautiful book to hold, at least in the US edition - it feels lovingly designed (although in occasional need of a copy editor), and is MUCH smaller than HP6, so perfect for reading while you go about getting lost.

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