One Hundred Diaries is a map with links to a selection of a hundred short personal essays that have appeared in The London Review of Books throughout the years. The essays revolve around a place somewhere in the world , including Neal Ascherson writing about Ilullilat in Greenland, Jenny Diski writing about Christchurch in New Zealand, Perry Anderson writing about Nantes in France, Rebecca Solnit writing about New Orleans in the US, Hilary Mantel writing about Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and Anneke van Woudenberg writing about Kilo in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"There is no good answer to being a woman; the art may instead lie in how we refuse the question." In "The Mother of All Questions", Rebecca Solnit writes for Harper's about being asked to justify her own (and Virginia Woolf's) childlessness, and more broadly about how to define happiness and a meaningful life.
Whenever I look around me, I wonder what old things are about to bear fruit, what seemingly solid institutions might soon rupture, and what seeds we might now be planting whose harvest will come at some unpredictable moment in the future. The most magnificent person I met in 2013 quoted a line from Michel Foucault to me: "People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don't know is what what they do does." Someone saves a life or educates a person or tells her a story that upends everything she assumed. The transformation may be subtle or crucial or world changing, next year or in 100 years, or maybe in a millennium. You can’t always trace it but everything, everyone has a genealogy. Rebecca Solnit in TomDispatch: The Arc of Justice and the Long Run: Hope, History, and Unpredictability [more inside]
One Nation Under Elvis
My own conversion to country music came all of a sudden in 1990, around another campfire, also in Nevada. The great Western Shoshone anti-nuclear and land-rights activist Bill Rosse, a decorated World War II vet and former farm manager, unpacked his guitar and sang Hank Williams and traditional songs for hours. I was enchanted as much by the irreverent rancor of some of the songs as by the pure blue yearning of others. I’d had no idea such coolness, wit, and poetry was lurking in this stuff I was taught to scorn before I’d met it.[more inside]
Rebecca Solnit on how Silicon Valley corporations are transforming San Francisco: I weathered the dot-com boom of the late 1990s as an observer, but I sold my apartment to a Google engineer last year and ventured out into both the rental market (for the short term) and home buying market (for the long term) with confidence that my long standing in this city and respectable finances would open a path. That confidence got crushed fast. It turned out that the competition for any apartment in San Francisco was so intense that you had to respond to the listings – all on San Francisco-based Craigslist of course, the classifieds website that whittled away newspaper ad revenue nationally – within a few hours of their posting to receive a reply from the landlord or agency. The listings for both rentals and homes for sale often mentioned their proximity to the Google or Apple bus stops. [more inside]
A Letter to My Allies on the Left by Rebecca Solnit