The Philosopher Queen: Rebecca Solnit
March 11, 2017 10:00 PM   Subscribe

Keziah Weir profiles Rebecca Solnit for Elle

Solnit—maximal feminist, ardent climate activist—is a master of exposing the malevolent underbelly of everyday situations. "Telling startling and transgressive truths is funny," she writes in "The Short Happy Recent History of the Rape Joke," an essay in her twentieth book, The Mother of All Questions (Haymarket). "Or at least we laugh when we hear them, out of surprise or discomfort or recognition." The 11 galvanizing essays in her latest collection include Solnit's choice not to be a mother (previously); a portrait of an American family whose son, Christopher Michael-Martinez, was killed in a 2014 murder spree in Isla Vista, California; and a rigorous study of the ways in which sexism silences both men and women. "This is about everybody," Solnit says of Mother. "All of us live in a culture that is attempting to limit the range of our humanity, and so we're all in this liberation struggle."

To call Solnit prolific doesn't capture the depth or magnitude of her work. Her essays on everything from literature to walking to gentrification in San Francisco have appeared on the blue. Perhaps best known for pinpointing the phenomenon that became known as mansplaining, she recently reimagined New York as a city of women. Solnit's book Hope in the Dark, which she made electronically available for free after the election, inaugurated the Hope in the Darkness Fanfare Club. Her work reminds us all that "Now is not the time to despair, but to act."
posted by Fish, fish, are you doing your duty? (3 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
Hey, thanks for putting this together. I first came across her writing Harpers magazine, and over time have been extremely impressed with what she chooses to put out in the world. It's awfully easy these days to feel cynical or depressed when looking around, but Solnit has a way of finding a brightness in things that isn't always apparent.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 3:32 AM on March 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

That Weir profile is pretty good; at first I thought Weir was making it too much about herself, but it comes together well in the final section:
A few days before I was to meet Solnit for the first time, one of my college friends—a poet who for a few years postgraduation lived just blocks from my Brooklyn apartment—was stabbed to death, at home, by her male roommate. Almost in spite of myself, I tell Solnit about Carolyn—that was her name. I can't comprehend the young man's violence, I say, as anything but the result of a psychotic break. "Part of what I've tried to fight in my feminism is these stories that are exculpatory," Solnit replies. "If it's white men, they had mental health issues." Obviously some do, she continues, but the automatic assumption "avoids discussing how most violence, of every kind, is largely perpetrated by men," she says. "Mental illness, whether depression or psychosis, just disinhibits men. They follow patterns that are built into the culture."
Thanks for the post!
posted by languagehat at 12:14 PM on March 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

I've heard of her and read a few of her pieces but had never really looked into reading her books. Thanks for this post--now I will.
posted by emjaybee at 8:54 AM on March 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

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