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Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics
by Rebecca Solnit

AVAILABILITY: Active Record (Readily Available)

Publication Date: June 2007
Publisher: University of California Press
Binding: Trade Cloth
Topics: HUMAN ECOLOGY; LANDSCAPE ASSESSMENT; UNITED STATES_POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Description:

Rebecca Solnit has made a vocation of journeying into difficult territory and reporting back, as an environmentalist, antiglobalization activist, and public intellectual. Storming the Gates of Paradise, an anthology of her essential essays from the past ten years, takes the reader from the Pyrenees to the U.S.-Mexican border, from San Francisco to London, from open sky to the deepest mines, and from the antislavery struggles of two hundred years ago to today's street protests. The nearly forty essays collected here comprise a unique guidebook to the American landscape after the millennium--not just the deserts, skies, gardens, and wilderness areas that have long made up Solnit's subject matter, but the social landscape of democracy and repression, of borders, ruins, and protests. She ventures into territories as dark as prison and as sublime as a broad vista, revealing beauty in the harshest landscape and political struggle in the most apparently serene view. Her introduction sets the tone and the book's overarching themes as she describes Thoreau, leaving the jail cell where he had been confined for refusing to pay war taxes and proceeding directly to his favorite huckleberry patch. In this way she links pleasure to politics, brilliantly demonstrating that the path to paradise has often run through prison.

These startling insights on current affairs, politics, culture, and history, always expressed in Solnit's pellucid and graceful prose, constantly revise our views of the otherwise ordinary and familiar. Illustrated throughout, Storming the Gates of Paradise represents recent developments in Solnit's thinking and offers the reader a panoramic world view enriched by her characteristically provocative, inspiring, and hopeful observations.

Review:

"These provocative essays by National Book Critics Circle award — winner Solnit (Wanderlust, etc.), mostly published in magazines like the London Review of Books and Sierra and in books by other authors over the past seven years, attempts to understand politics through place. Her meditations often begin with landscape, but for her, 'to be in the woods is not to be out of society or politics.' She goes far beyond pristine nature, as she considers the mythology of the American West, ponders Silicon Valley — which she calls 'a non-place' — and muses about antiglobalization protest sites in California and Miami. The impediments people use to keep strangers out of their gardens distress her, as do barriers that would seal the U.S. off from the rest of the world. She celebrates vibrant public spaces, laments malls and rails against the displacement of Asher Durand's painting Kindred Spirits from New York City to Arkansas, by a Wal-Mart heiress whose fortune is built on a philosophy antithetical to that of the painting. Activists and idealists Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs and Betty Friedan, and the visionary architect Teddy Cruz give her hope. Always insightful, these essays offer many shrewd observations about the social, political and cultural landscape of contemporary America. Photos not seen by PW. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Synopsis:

"Amongst the best American writers, Rebecca Solnit leads the 'don't mourn, organize' school. In the toxic deserts and suburban badlands of the West, she still finds seeds of paradise and futures redeemable by struggle. Neither lovesongs nor dirges, these remarkable essays are a genre of their own: imagine the intellectual acuity of Susan Sontag alloyed with the holy roar of Walt Whitman."--Mike Davis, author of "Planet of Slums"

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