Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities

Rebecca Solnit

Book cover

I picked up this reissue of a fairly old book because it was cheap in a thrift store, and I consider Solnit one of my favorite authors. The cover style of the reissued volume mimics those of Solnit’s more recent books (“Men Explain Things to Me”, “The Mother of All Questions”, “Call Them By Their True Names”). In a way it’s similar, in that Solnit has a fairly consistent set of political themes that she has been developing since at least this volume (and perhaps earlier)–for example, the essay “Woolf’s Darkness” in METM is basically a development of one of the key ideas of this book, the value of uncertainty about the future and the error of aiming for a final utopia. It’s also different though, in that it’s a cohesive single work rather than a collection of loosely related essays. This makes it more enjoyable to read cover-to-cover (which I more or less always do anyway), but it wouldn’t be as good of a book to dip in and out of.

Some will say that the political topics discussed in this book are dated or even quaint (Bush’s invasion of Iraq, the WTO protests in Seattle, the Zapatistas) in the era of Trump. But I think this would be to get Solnit exactly wrong. One of her key contentions, here and elsewhere, is that the genesis of historic and powerful social movements is often to be found in seemingly inconsequential and defeated acts of previous eras. It is, I think, especially salutary to get one’s mind off Trump for a while, without turning off one’s political brain entirely.

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars