Recollections of My Non-Existence

Author(s): Rebecca Solnit

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A landmark memoir from the author of Men Explain Things to Me; an electric portrait of the artist as a young woman that asks how a young writer finds her voice in a society that prefers women to be silent. In 1981, Rebecca Solnit rented a studio apartment in San Francisco that would be her home for the next twenty-five years. There, she began to come to terms with the epidemic of violence against women around her, the street harassment that unsettled her, and the authority figures that routinely disbelieved her. That violence weighed on her as she faced the task of having a voice in a society that preferred women to shut up or go away.Set in the era of punk, of growing gay pride, of counter culture and West Coast activism, during the latter years of second wave feminism, Recollections of My Non-Existence is the foundational story of an emerging artist struggling against patriarchal violence and scorn. Recalling the experience of living with fear, which Solnit contends is the normal state of women, she considers how oppression impacts on creativity and recounts the struggle to find a voice and have it be heard.Place and the growing culture of activism liberated her, as did the magical world of literature and books. And over time, the clamour of voices against violence to women coalesced in the current feminist upheaval, a movement in which Solnit was a widely audible participant. Here is an electric account of the pauses and gains of feminism in the past forty years; and an extraordinary portrait of an artist, by a seminal American writer.'There's a new feminist revolution - open to people of all genders - and Rebecca Solnit is one of its most powerful voices' - Barbara Ehrenreich

 In 1981, Rebecca Solnit rented a studio apartment in San Francisco that would be her home for the next twenty-five years. There, she began to come to terms with the epidemic of violence against women around her, the street harassment that unsettled her, and the authority figures that routinely disbelieved her. That violence weighed on her as she faced the task of having a voice in a society that preferred women to shut up or go away. Set in the era of punk, of growing gay pride, of counter culture and West Coast activism, during the latter years of second wave feminism, Recollections of My Non-Existence is the foundational story of an emerging artist struggling against patriarchal violence and scorn. Recalling the experience of living with fear, which Solnit contends is the normal state of women, she considers how oppression impacts on creativity and recounts the struggle to find a voice and have it be heard. Place and the growing culture of activism liberated her, as did the magical world of literature and books. And over time, the clamour of voices against violence to women coalesced in the current feminist upheaval, a movement in which Solnit was a widely audible participant. Here is an electric account of the pauses and gains of feminism in the past forty years; and an extraordinary portrait of an artist, by a seminal American writer. 'There's a new feminist revolution - open to people of all genders - and Rebecca Solnit is one of its most powerful voices' - Barbara Ehrenreich


 


 


 


Author Biography: Rebecca Solnit is author of, among other books, Call Them By Their True Names, The Mother of All Questions, Men Explain Things to Me, Wanderlust, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, the NBCC award-winning River of Shadows and A Paradise Built in Hell. A contributing editor to Harper's, she writes regularly for the London Review of Books and the Los Angeles Times. She lives in San Francisco.


Promotional Information: A landmark memoir from the author of Men Explain Things to Me: an electric portrait of the artist as a young woman that asks how a young writer finds her voice in a society that prefers women to be silent.


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STELLA'S REVIEW:
Rebecca Solnit’s memoir will not open the doors to her personal life. The title, Recollections of My Non-Existence, gives you a hint of what to expect. This is a series of recollections, mostly from the 1980s, of the young woman she was and how she became the writer we know in her excellent essays and observant analysis of place in her ‘travel’ writing. I say travel, but Solnit is not easily subsumed by genre and here again in her memoir, it is never pedestrian. The chapter headings are intriguing to begin with. 'Looking Glass House' — how we look back into the past like looking into a mirror watching for some sense of the person we once were. “I looked at myself as I faced a full-length mirror and saw my image darken and soften and then seem to retreat, as though I was vanishing from the world rather than that my mind was shutting it out.” Later she goes on to describe the sea as mirror-like and like her sense of self she draws comparison with the subtlety of nature and human depths. “Sometimes the whole sea looks like a mirror of beaten silver, though it’s too turbulent to hold many reflections; it’s the bay that carries a reflected sky on its surface.” “Sometimes at the birth and death of a day, the opal sky is no colour we have words for, the gold shading into blue without the intervening green ...the light morphing second by second so that the sky is more shades of blue than you can count ….If you look away for a moment you miss a shade for which there will never be a term..”  With much of this writing, quiet observation and the importance of place is crucial to the way in which Solnit remembers and reflects on herself. Or, as she states in 'Disappearing Acts', her non-existence as a young woman, attempting to find a place and a sense of herself. Centred around the flat she lived in for twenty-six years, moving (escaping) from suburbia to a then ungentrified area of San Francisco, she pinpoints the influence the neighbourhood on her development as a writer as she carves out a way forward as a student, a young journalist and then as an art writer and later a feminist political thinker and essayist. And it is words, always words and the way in which we and others use language, that underpin her thinking, either by descriptions of her apartment, her writing desk, her neighbourhood or by actions which are enacted upon others, specifically violence on women and the wider use of authority structures which fires up so much of Solnit’s work. The only image, aside from the cover, included in this memoir is at the beginning of the book — it is her writing desk. Gifted to her by a friend, who survived a vicious assault, it is Solnit’s place from which she travels with words. It is lovingly described and a central object in her life. Reading these passages remind me of the desk in  Nicole Krauss’ Great House and the pivotal role that an object can have. Solnit’s memoir has some parallels to the autofictions of Sheila Heti and Siri Hustvedt but remains at a space removed. The writing is subtle, beautiful in parts, but don’t expect to find any gritty revelations. What we do sense is the honesty to reveal the girl she was — thin, unconfident, living with family violence — and the steps it takes to seek out one’s self in the world where Solnit as a young woman describes herself as having made herself invisible. Read this for the thoughtful approach to becoming a person; what it means to be alive in your own skin; for, as always, the sharp insistent voice she employs against injustice and violence; for an insight into the development of a writer; and for the luxury of the language.   


 

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Product Information

General Fields

  • : 9781783785445
  • : Granta Books
  • : Granta Books
  • : January 2020
  • : ---length:- '21.6'width:- '13.8'units:- Centimeters
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Rebecca Solnit
  • : Hardback
  • : English
  • : 814.54
  • : 256
  • : BM