Rebecca Solnit on Landscapes of the Self in Harper’s

Rebecca Solnit. © Sallie Dean Shatz

Head over to Harper’s Magazine to read a six-question interview with Rebecca Solnit, in which she talks about her two new books, Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas (UC Press) and The Faraway Nearby (Viking), and her continuing project to define the self in terms of physical, natural, political, or communal spaces.

Solnit is particularly interested in showing the grander scope of personal narratives—the way people are “interfused with the natural world, biologically and psychically.” She makes the point, too, that often “our metaphors and analogies are drawn from spaces, the natural world, the animal world, and our own bodies, and all these things can also represent each other. […] We need the natural and sensual world not only for ecological, biological, and maybe spiritual reasons, but for intellectual and imaginative ones.”

Unfathomable City, co-authored with filmmaker and native New Orleanian Rebecca Snedeker, uses essays and 22 full-color two-page-spread maps to make these imaginative connections and plumb the depths of New Orleans. The maps’ precision and specificity shift our notions of the Mississippi, the Caribbean, Mardi Gras, jazz, soils and trees, generational roots, and many other subjects, and expand our ideas of how any city is imagined and experienced.

Be sure to check out the map, “Oil and Water: Extracting Petroleum, Exterminating Nature” at Harper’s, which will be included in the finished book.

Infinite City, an atlas that examines the many layers of meaning in the San Francisco Bay Area, is the previous book in the series.