The Encyclopaedia of Trouble and Spaciousness

Reviewed By  Grasshopper2       April 20, 2015


Author  Rebecca Solnit

ISBN:                 9781595341983
Publisher:         Trinity University Press
Release Date:    


It is seldom that a book comes along that leaves you so impressed.  Rebecca Solnit is gifted in so many ways.  She is gifted as a writer, has a scholarly understanding of many issues, and conveys her thoughts eloquently.

Combining these gifts into a series of essays about places of the world, Solnit makes you immediately want to pack and go and see where her words have been.  Her use of language is superb, and it is often that you re-read and savour the lines.  The observations are in depth, clear and thoughtful.  Best of all, there is a positive overtone to her views of the world, which is carried through the wide range of her stories.

The first essay is titled, “Cyclopaedia of an Arctic Expedition.” It is written in short texts under alphabetical headings, which seems strange until further reading.  Gradually the entries form a cohesive look at the location, wild life and the expedition itself; added to this are the visuals of the place.  “Colour” was a heading under which the author has written, “the world here is in shades of grey verging towards brown, blue, and black, and it’s white; ice, snow, glacier, cloud.” It’s just delightful to read.

The following essays from around the world deal with an enormous range of issues, always presented with knowledge and understanding as well as a deep awareness of impact.  Environmental issues underpin many of these essays.  Also, her firm belief that people are good, caring and loving, and their acts of love are the submerged part of an iceberg, underneath a capitalist society. 

In the acknowledgements at the end of this book, Rebecca says, “I hope that this book is, for the readers, an adventure.  For its writer it’s a travel journal, a list of experiments, a bouquet of theories…”

The map at the beginning of the book shows how far Rebecca has travelled, and gives a base from which to regard current political and social practices.  An awesome book!