Anyone who attended the Writers Series this past Thursday would have walked away thoroughly impressed by Rebecca Solnit’s ability to weave dedicated research into a fresh, compelling, at times hilarious narrative that had you alternately laughing and frowning in concentration. The essay she read, a foray into Thoreau’s controversial laundry habits soon to be featured in Orion, was a kind of “valentine,” in her words–to Thoreau, to thinkers, to obscure research questions spawned by nasty Facebook posts. To curiosity.
It was this curiosity that had me most impressed, even earlier that day in a very humid Dana Dining Hall. Over our thirty minute meal, the conversation bounced from environmentalism to eBooks to nuclear testing sites, and Ms. Solnit had insight and questions related to everything. She was even curious about our own Canton, New York; often dismissed, even by its own native occupants, as a little slice of “in the middle of nowhere,” Ms. Solnit viewed our St. Lawrence locale as a fascinating intersection of several different worlds, a place where Canada meets the U.S, a place where poverty and wealth sit squarely side-by-side, a place whose ties to indigenous culture are best demonstrated by culturally rich Akwesasne just a few miles away. It was an insightful and empowering perspective, highly indicative of the optimistic voice you’re likely to enjoy in any one of Ms. Solnit’s books.