The title first drew me to Rebecca Solnit’s The Faraway Nearby. I was working on an essay about Georgia O’Keefe, and though mention of her painting “The Faraway Nearby” didn’t even make it into my finished piece, I found Solnit’s book and knew I had to have it.
I think it was the Apricots that made me want to devour the book as quickly as I could, the piles of apricots that fell from the tree in her mother’s backyard and covered the floor of Solnit’s apartment. The Apricots, which was the title of both the first and last chapters of the book, represented so much throughout the stories Solnit masterfully weaves together, including the abundance of trouble that came to her in the same summer as the hundreds of pounds of fruit.
“I had expected them to look like abundance itself and they looked instead like anxiety,” Solnit writes in chapter one, “because every time I came back there was another rotten one or two or three or dozen to cull, and so I fell to inspecting the pile every time I passed by instead of admiring it.”
The apricots could be any number of the abundant blessings of my own life: blessings that somehow become burdens.
As a writer, I also found myself represented in Solnit’s pages: “writing is saying to no one and to everyone the things it is not possible to say to someone. Or rather writing is saying to the no one who may eventually be the reader those things one has no someone to whom to say them.”
I think that’s when I knew that the apricots didn’t really matter. The jams, syrups, and chutneys Solnit made from the apricots, they didn’t matter either. She herself didn’t acknowledge this truth until nearly the end of the book: “But I now see the apricots as an exhortation to tell of the time that began with their arrival. As a gift from my mother, or her tree, they were a catalyst that made the chaos of that era come together as a story of sorts and an invitation to examine the business of making and changing stories and locate the silences in between.”
She wasn’t free from the burden of the apricots by simply giving them away. The freedom came when she began to write about them.
Read and Respond
I love to read words almost as much as I like to write them. Sometimes, I get to do both by reading a book and writing about it: read and respond. It starts when a book captures my imagination. Usually I write about the books that change my life, or at least my heart. They are reviews, recommendations, and ways to connect with what I read.
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