I just finished reading Rebecca Solnit's A Field Guide to Getting Lost. The book is one-half personal essays that range in topic from relationships to desert walks, from dream narratives about tortoises and the childhood home to the memory of seeing San Francisco from a distance and a height. Solnit parses tales about her ancestors at Ellis Island with observations about light treatments in old photographs.
It is a beautiful answer to the pressures upon a memoirist: remaining true to experience, relaying something of more than personal import, treating landscape and individuals as precious cargo. The other half is completely fractured, in the best way. Solnit wears a patchwork hat of the cultural historian, art critic, spiritually-bent philosopher, historian of maps and cartography, travel writer and vagabond.
It's a book about getting lost. It's a book about landscapes---physical, cultural and emotional. Solnit shows so many ways to get positively lost in these landscapes. In our art, in our minds. This book is layered like blankets upon a bed that you just don't want to step out of.
"Airplane flights are usually from city to city, but in between are the untrodden realms to which you can only give approximate labels----somewhere in Newfoundland, somewhere in Nebraska or the Dakotas. From miles up in the sky, the land looks like a map of itself, but without any of the points of reference that make maps make sense. The oxbows and mesas out the window are anonymous, unfathomable, a map without words. I've found out that the wish the plane would do an emergency landing in one of them is widespread among those who go from city to city on their work. Those nameless places awaken a desire to be lost, to be far away, a desire for the melancholy wonder that is the blue of distance." --- excerpted from A Field Guide to Getting Lost, by Rebecca Solnit