By Martin Vogel
Book review: A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
Rebecca Solnit writes non-fiction as if it were a work of poetry. A Field Guide to Getting Lost is part cultural history, part philosophy: a meditation on loss and being lost.
The meaning of these experiences – the familiar falling away and the unfamiliar appearing – is different today than it was in the past. 19th century travellers thought nothing of being off course for days at a time; for us, anxiety sets in within minutes of losing our way. People had the skills to navigate the natural landscape and with this came a sense of optimism about their ability to find their way and survive. Today, even those who walk in the wilderness lack this familiarity with the landscape and rely on mobile phones to get them out of trouble.
For Rebecca Solnit, to live this way is to miss something of the very essence of life: “Never to get lost is not to live.” Indeed, her theme is less the hazards of getting lost and more a hymn to losing oneself – the life of discovery that comes with living with uncertainty.