Now I am the proud owner of not one but two copies of Solnit’s Field Guide to Getting Lost, both straggling in from Amazon through a flurry of snow yesterday. (One copy easily accessed in it’s good old brown manila envelope; the other in one of those white, deceptively flimsy envelopes you first try to open with your incisors; then with your molars; then with a chain saw).
(I will give one copy to my friend ,Tom, who has always been hair-raisingly open to gifts and other things from that Solnitzian door into the dark .(p. 4) Perhaps he will want to ask Hector if it’s ok for him (Tom) to join us.)
So, Field Guide. I know that as a reader I am annoying to some simultaneous other readers of any given text. I generally read slowly and bear down on every word (thank you, H. James), extracting the savor of each sentence while keeping in mind the bigger picture/s the prose develops. Readers who go right for the big picture—and usually also the larger strokes that make it up, can feel reined in by my gait.
For example. On only page 5 of her Field Guide, Solnit quasi-rhetorically asks: “How do you go about finding these things that are in some ways [?] about extending the boundaries of self into unknown territory, about becoming someone else?” WHOA! This is big. It begs many questions indeed. Such as (but only most obviously) am I someone else than I am at this moment here if instead I’m in Siberia, and then again another self out of a cloud of empiricism in Saks Fifth Avenue? Actually, the question’s not ridiculous given her sentence as it stands.
I call sentences such as Solnit’s quoted one “provocations.” They themselves are ambiguities causing our reader brains to do some of its own work before the author’s commencing to unpack them (the unruly sentences) in the writer’s own terms which we’re reading for, thus to our edification. The fair play assumption that the author will do this.
You know how if you’re riding your horse, and it’s proceeding at the stipulated canter, head center, and it momentarily cants its head slightly askew, and you know it’s just gotten new ideas about what we’re going to do? Well, right after Solnit asks (I repeat) “How do you go about finding these things that are in some ways about extending the boundaries of self into unknown territory, about becoming someone else?” she cants askew and gallops from this to Oppenheimer and to Poe. No carrot at the barn for you, Rebecca!
Harsh? Of course. It’s a book, for crying out loud.
I am on page 10. Where are you others? Shall I put things aside and wrap this up in order to carry on with y’all?