Rebecca Solnit

Rebecca Solnit is a columnist at Harper’s and the author of many books, including Men Explain Things to Me: And Other Essays, and Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas, published last year.

From Lying to Leering: Penis Power

Rebecca Solnit, 19 January 2017

Hillary Clinton was all that stood between us and a reckless, unstable, ignorant, inane, infinitely vulgar, climate-change-denying white-nationalist misogynist with authoritarian ambitions and kleptocratic plans. A lot of people, particularly white men, could not bear her, and that is as good a reason as any for Trump’s victory. Over and over again, I heard men declare that she had failed to make them vote for her. They saw the loss as hers rather than ours, and they blamed her for it, as though election was a gift they withheld.

Diary: Get Off the Bus

Rebecca Solnit, 20 February 2014

The young woman at the blockade was worried about the banner the Oaklanders brought, she told me, because she and her co-organisers had tried to be careful about messaging. But the words FUCK OFF GOOGLE in giant letters on a purple sheet held up in front of a blockaded Google bus gladdened the hearts of other San Franciscans. That morning – it was Tuesday, 21 January – about fifty locals were also holding up a Facebook bus: a gleaming luxury coach transporting Facebook employees down the peninsula to Silicon Valley. A tall young black man held one corner of the banner; he was wearing a Ulysses T-shirt.

Diary: In the Day of the Postman

Rebecca Solnit, 29 August 2013

In or around June 1995 human character changed again. Or rather, it began to undergo a metamorphosis that is still not complete, but is profound – and troubling, not least because it is hardly noted. When I think about, say, 1995, or whenever the last moment was before most of us were on the internet and had mobile phones, it seems like a hundred years ago. Letters came once a day, predictably, in the hands of the postal carrier. News came in three flavours – radio, television, print – and at appointed hours. Some of us even had a newspaper delivered every morning.

Diary: Google Invades

Rebecca Solnit, 7 February 2013

The buses roll up to San Francisco’s bus stops in the morning and evening, but they are unmarked, or nearly so, and not for the public. They have no signs or have discreet acronyms on the front windshield, and because they also have no rear doors they ingest and disgorge their passengers slowly, while the brightly lit funky orange public buses wait behind them. The luxury coach passengers ride for free and many take out their laptops and begin their work day on board; there is of course wifi. Most of them are gleaming white, with dark-tinted windows, like limousines, and some days I think of them as the spaceships on which our alien overlords have landed to rule over us.

Diary: In Fukushima

Rebecca Solnit, 10 May 2012

When I met him, Otsuchi city administrator Kozo Hirani, a substantial, balding man in a brown pinstripe suit, was on the upper floor of a warren of small-scale temporary buildings that now house the town’s administration. To reach him I had flown to Tokyo, taken a train more than three hundred miles north to Morioka, the capital of Iwate Prefecture, then got into a van with seven people from Tokyo’s International University who’d decided to see the disaster zone for themselves and help me while they were at it.

Diary: After the Oil Spill

Rebecca Solnit, 5 August 2010

New Orleans’s Saint Charles Avenue is lined with oak trees whose broad branches drip Spanish moss and Mardi Gras beads from the pre-Lenten parades, and behind the oaks are beautiful old houses with turrets, porches, balconies, bay windows, gables, dormers and lush gardens. There are no refineries for miles, hardly even gas stations on the stretch I was on in mid-June, and the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded on 20 April and the oil welling up a mile below it were dozens of miles away as the bird flies. So there was no explanation for the sudden powerful smell of gasoline that filled my car for several blocks.

Dry Lands: The Water Problem

Rebecca Solnit, 3 December 2009

Junk science might be too generous a label for the way conclusions have been reached about the water of the Colorado River. Without it, Arizona and southern Nevada would still be barely populated and a lot of the agriculture in the South-West wouldn’t exist. But the supply was always precarious and overcommitted, and it is already running out.

For a long time​ before the planes crashed into the upper levels of the World Trade Center in 2001, songbirds had been in the habit of doing so, migrating by night and mistaking the lights high above the city for stars. At least one ornithologist used to stroll along the base of the towers in the early morning, removing small corpses and rescuing the living. A lot of species have been too...

Check out the parking lot: Hell in LA

Rebecca Solnit, 8 July 2004

“Birk’s book is better looked at than read. His pictures are a critique of urbanism, rather than a contribution to Dante studies or theology. LA has little to give to Dante, but Dante via Birk has much to give to LA. In Canto XXI, the winged devils of the fifth ditch fly towards Dante and Virgil as they overlook the freeway from a clifftop. There is a cyclone fence behind them, a one-way sign in the lower right, another shopping cart, this time full of the possessions of a homeless demon, and the flying demons carry beggars’ signs: ‘Will work for food’, ‘Homeless veteran’.”

Diary: in the Sierra Nevada

Rebecca Solnit, 9 October 2003

“The few dozen houses had been burned to the ground and tanks used for aerial target practice were scattered between them. As we looked at the ruins of one ranch house, a noise erupted behind us so powerful it seemed more physical than sound. I turned just in time to see a supersonic jet disappear again, after buzzing us from 200 feet. . . The wars fought in the Middle East have been fought here first, in ways that one might imagine made them more real but instead make them more removed.”


The Right to Sex

22 March 2018

I was reading Amia Srinivasan’s essay about ‘the right to sex’ and enjoying it very much when I ran into a surprise (LRB, 22 March). ‘Rebecca Solnit,’ she writes, ‘reminds us that “you don’t get to have sex with someone unless they want to have sex with you," just as “you don’t get to share someone’s sandwich unless they want to share...

Get off the bus

20 February 2014

It was a mistake for the editors to announce my essay about San Francisco on the cover with the words ‘Go back to Palo Alto’. Palo Alto is not where the big tech companies have their headquarters and isn’t mentioned anywhere in the piece.

Warmer, Warmer

22 March 2007

John Lanchester’s piece on climate change was powerfully disturbing (LRB, 22 March). But he’s wrong on two counts about the absence of ‘terrorist attacks’ on SUVs. First, there have been at least a few such attacks in the US: in April 2005, William Cottrell was sentenced to eight years in federal prison and ordered to pay $3.5 million in restitution for destroying some 125 SUVs...

Wanted Man

9 October 2003

Rebecca Solnit writes: I was quoting Nick Cave's version of the song from memory.

Stopping Motion

24 July 2003

Brian Winston takes me to task for the ‘unfounded suggestion’ in my book Motion Studies ‘that Muybridge should be considered the “father" of motion pictures’ (Letters, 7 August). I never used that phrase. Eadweard Muybridge made a foundational contribution to the invention of cinema: he did not invent it and I did not say he did. Muybridge’s two great breakthroughs...

The frontispiece to this biographical study is an unknown photographer’s portrait of the bearded Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) taken in about 1872. He sits awkwardly hunched on a crate...

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