Weaving The Fabric Of The World With Our Stories with Rebecca Solnit

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Rebecca Solnit discusses how all of us are connected to one another as though we are threads woven into the fabric of the world. Storytelling is an important part of creating this fabric. Every story is a thread that weaves itself into the universal fabric. Solnit points out that we often pretend that stories are givens, things that are true, and that there’s only one way to do something. We tell ourselves stories like: “I’m ugly, I’ll never succeed, nobody loves me…We build these houses out of stories and take up residence in them and they’re invisible to us so that we don’t say: I could be living in a completely different story…We see them as inevitable when we don’t see ourselves as the storyteller of our own story.” Every word, every book, every work of art, everything has a story. Solnit believes that storytelling can lead to positive change in the world. Talking about problems in society, such as violence and discrimination, transforms the problems into stories to be added to the network of threads. She believes that calling things by their true names and bringing them into the open is the way to a better world. “The more visible you make it the less tolerable it is.” But the results can also be negative. Words are powerful, she warns. She says to be careful with our stories and consider the consequences, because they can be wonderful or destructive. She describes her difficult relationship with her mother, finally witnessing her mother’s growing ease as Alzheimer’s took away her stories. Solnit also discusses the concept of giving and receiving, and what it means to be in someone’s debt. (hosted by Justine Willis Toms)


Rebecca Solnit is the author of fifteen books about art, landscape, public and collective life, ecology, politics, hope, meandering, reverie, and memory. She is a recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, a National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Lannan Literary Award. She works with the group 350.org on climate issues and is a contributing editor to Harper’s and regular contributor to the political site Tomdispatch.com.

Her books include:

To learn more about her work go to rebeccasolnit.net.

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • How are we each threads in the fabric of the world
  • In what ways are we all connected
  • How are books both solitary and unifying
  • How does art tell a story
  • Why is "naming" so important
  • How is storytelling helping modern society
  • What are the consequences of the stories we tell
  • Who is telling your story
  • What happens when our stories fall away
  • How are stories wonderful and how are they dangerous
  • What do we all owe one another
  • How is receiving a way of giving
  • What purpose does debt serve

Host: Justine Willis Toms   Interview Date: 1/22/2015   Program Number: 3532

Music Playlist

From Album: New Friend
Artist: Eugene Friesen with Paul Halley on piano
1986 Living Music Records CD #LMRCD-7

Music Break 1: Track 01 First Ride
Music Break 2: Track 09 Full Circle
Music Break 3: Track 09 Full Circle" (reprise)