Title: Recollections of My Non-Existence

Author: Rebecca Solnit

Pages: 256 Pages

Publisher: Granta Publications

The Blurb

In 1981, Rebecca Solnit rented a studio apartment in San Francisco that would be her home for the next twenty-five years. There, she began to come to terms with the epidemic of violence against women around her, the street harassment that unsettled her, and the authority figures that routinely disbelieved her. That violence weighed on her as she faced the task of having a voice in a society that preferred women to shut up or go away.

Set in the era of punk, of growing gay pride, of counter culture and West Coast activism, during the latter years of second wave feminism, Recollections of My Non-Existence is the foundational story of an emerging artist struggling against patriarchal violence and scorn. Recalling the experience of living with fear, which Solnit contends is the normal state of women, she considers how oppression impacts on creativity and recounts the struggle to find a voice and have it be heard.

Place and the growing culture of activism liberated her, as did the magical world of literature and books. And over time, the clamour of voices against violence to women coalesced in the current feminist upheaval, a movement in which Solnit was a widely audible participant. Here is an electric account of the pauses and gains of feminism in the past forty years; and an extraordinary portrait of an artist, by a seminal American writer.

The Review

Recollections of My Non-Existence by Rebecca Solnit is a palate cleanser of a book. It is a series of essays that create a memoir. The collection, whilst being specific to Rebecca Solnit’s life equally acts as a record of social change dealing with issues such as sexual assault, gentrification, race, and feminism.

Some essays are more enjoyable than others but it is an interesting collection.

Recollections of My Non-Existence by Rebecca Solnit is available now.

The Blurb

They used to send each other letters. The return address was always the same:  Dept. of Speculation. They used to be young, brave and giddy with hopes for their future. They got married, had a child, and skated through all the same calamities of family life. But then, slowly, quietly something changes.

As the years rush by, fears creep in and doubts accumulate until finally their life as they know it cracks apart and they find themselves forced to reassess what they have lost, what is left, and what they want now.

Written with the dazzling lucidity of poetry, Dept. of Speculation navigates the jagged edges of a modern marriage to tell a story that is darkly funny, surprising and wise.

The Review

I had heard many a great thing about Dept. of Speculation prior to reading it and was therefore very excited to start, however, I genuinely did not get it. It read like a detailed synopsis of a story that hadn’t been fully formed.

I understand that this style of writing was used solely to create an impact such as the lack of character names signified that the act of adultery can happen in any marriage and by giving the characters identities in this way creates a separation between the reader and the fictional character on the page. What this also did was make it very difficult for the reader (or this reader, at least) to form an emotional attachment or car for the character.

I personally feel that the author opted for style over substance. Ironically, the substance was there it was just never fully explored.

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill is available now.

Dept of speculation