Purposeful Imperfections

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Month: May, 2015

A Book of Migrations: Some Passages in Ireland by Rebecca Solnit

A Book of Migrations: Some Passages in Ireland by Rebecca Solnit (cover art)

Drawing parallels between her actual homeland of California and ancestral homeland of Ireland, Rebecca Solnit pens a prismatic travel tale, a journey that’s as much inward as outward and as much about the act of travel as traveling in a specific locale. Book of Migrations is a kind of history book, too, one that muddies the usual takes on the past by mingling the personal and the marginalized with the ascendant and traditional.

Throughout, Solnit attempts to situate herself and those she encounters in the landscapes she walks across, but footholds quickly give way, leaving, at best, blurry insights. Yet, it’s this indeterminacy that makes Book of Migrations so meaningful, as it reminds us, crucially, of the mutability of identity, a starkly contrasting take to the far more traditional notions of character and culture as sedentary and fixed. It’s this fluidity that Solnit wants us to embrace as, like travel, its importance lies in the journey–with its motion, change, and newness–not the destination.

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My Struggle: Book Four by Karl Ove Knausgaard

My Struggle: Book Four by Karl Ove Knuasgaard (cover art)

Book Four of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle is situated amid that violent uplift from childhood to adulthood, when the world simultaneously expands and contracts. It’s a vertiginous time, when feelings of possibility and responsibility, invincibility and vulnerability play musical chairs in our psyche. Those places and moments from childhood–so enormous, profound, and permanent in our memory–often turn out to be small and imperfect when reencountered. This destabilization, while liberating, is also uprooting, and Karl Ove’s saga, this round, is one of wild experimenting, stumbling, and, as the subtitle suggests, dancing in the dark. It’s a period of contextualization, in which he tries desperately–via booze, via writing, via sex–to locate himself, and, throughout, he seems to be asking: how much of what I was will I still be?