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The catalyst for the latest spiraling inquiry by Lannan Literary Award-winning creative nonfiction master Solnit is her mother's Alzheimer's. Solnit considers memory and its mutations, contemplates the harvest of a backyard apricot tree, and celebrates the pleasures and revelations of reading and writing You have an intimacy with the far away and distance from the near at hand. Drawing on intrepid research, she analyzes with verve and exceptional fluency in metaphor the pivotal roles stories play in our private and social lives, pondering the infinite resonance of fairy tales and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Working with a sequence of repeating motifs apricots, mirrors, ice, flight, breath, wound, knot Solnit chronicles her residency in Iceland at the Library of Water and offers surprising and stirring observations about chemical pollution and polar bears, Dutch still lifes and Che Guevara, symbiosis and butterflies, the mesmerizing art of spinning and Buddhism, and her own alarming medical adventure. Solnit's ensouling facility with language and profound perception of physical and psychic geography shape her complexly evocative musings on how we extract meaning from inheritance, feeling, place, and experience.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist

Publishers Weekly
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San Francisco social activist and National Book Critics Circle Award-winner Solnit (River of Shadows; A Paradise Built in Hell) fashions an elegant study in empathy through these meandering reflections on subjects as diverse as her mother's descent into dementia, Che Guevara, and Solnit's own "magical rescue" to Iceland for some months as resident at the Library of Water museum. Storytelling is Solnit's way of perceiving the suffering of others, she writes, and her first essays explore the decidedly mixed feelings she harbored toward her difficult mother as she grew more and more forgetful, revealing the dreaded symptoms of Alzheimer's. The author struggled to honor the "unremembered past" she shared with her often critical, resentful mother. From the rotting apricots gathered from her mother's yard, Solnit made jam, an act of stalling their inevitable decay-a startlingly moving metaphor for vanitas. Ice is another preserver/destroyer, and Solnit segues nimbly into her explorations in Iceland by way of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which begins and ends on ice, with the polar explorer's narrative. Throughout, Solnit subtly touches on subject ranging from Guevara's contact with leprosy patients as he traveled around Latin America in the 1950s to the reach of Buddhism to Icelandic history, to her own health crisis-and all in her enormously fluid style. Agent: Bonnie Nadell, Hill Nadell Literary Agency. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.