A Paradise Built in Hell by Rebecca Solnit
The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster

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Synopsis

"The freshest, deepest, most optimistic account of human nature I've come across in years."
-Bill McKibben

The most startling thing about disasters, according to award-winning author Rebecca Solnit, is not merely that so many people rise to the occasion, but that they do so with joy. That joy reveals an ordinarily unmet yearning for community, purposefulness, and meaningful work that disaster often provides. A Paradise Built in Hell is an investigation of the moments of altruism, resourcefulness, and generosity that arise amid disaster's grief and disruption and considers their implications for everyday life. It points to a new vision of what society could become-one that is less authoritarian and fearful, more collaborative and local.


 

About Rebecca Solnit

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Rebecca Solnit is the author of ten books. In 2003, she received the prestigious Lannan Literary Award.
 
Published August 31, 2010 by Penguin Books. 366 pages
Genres: Health, Fitness & Dieting, Political & Social Sciences, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for A Paradise Built in Hell

Kirkus Reviews

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The author’s central thesis—which she develops by drawing on a wide range of philosophers and writers, including William James, Viktor Frankl, Mikhail Bakhtin and William Wordsworth—is that disasters reveal the human ability to imagine and spontaneously create communities that fulfill our desire ...

Jul 01 2009 | Read Full Review of A Paradise Built in Hell: The...

The New York Times

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Urbanites, or the social dynamics of urbanism, have been particularly implicated in these inquiries, whether by “diffusion of responsibility” — the more people who are around, the less any one person feels compelled to act — or “information overload,” the idea that city people must filter and lim...

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The New York Times

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As Solnit notes, “the real question is not why this brief paradise of mutual aid and altruism appears but rather why it is ordinarily overwhelmed by another world order.” Is it, as Solnit too glancingly notes, the “conundrum we call human nature”?

Sep 01 2009 | Read Full Review of A Paradise Built in Hell: The...

The New York Times

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A weightier charge by the disaster sociologists, one echoed by Solnit, is that “elites fear disruption of the social order, challenges to their legitimacy.” Thus, Solnit argues, the official response in 1906 San Francisco — where the subsequent fire caused more damage than the quake — kept volun...

Sep 01 2009 | Read Full Review of A Paradise Built in Hell: The...

The New York Times

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Rebecca Solnit’s new book investigates the fleeting, purposeful joy that fills human beings in the face of disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes and even terrorist attacks.

Aug 21 2009 | Read Full Review of A Paradise Built in Hell: The...

Publishers Weekly

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These provocative essays by National Book Critics Circle award–winner Solnit (Wanderlust , etc.), mostly published in magazines like the London Review of Books and Sierra and in books by other authors over the past seven years, attempts to understand politics through place.

Apr 16 2007 | Read Full Review of A Paradise Built in Hell: The...

Publishers Weekly

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Natural and man-made disasters can be “utopias” that showcase human solidarity and point the way to a freer society, according this stimulating contrarian study.

Apr 27 2009 | Read Full Review of A Paradise Built in Hell: The...

The Washington Post

In "A Paradise Built in Hell," Rebecca Solnit presents a withering critique of modern capitalist society by examining five catastrophes: the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906;

Aug 23 2009 | Read Full Review of A Paradise Built in Hell: The...

Christian Science Monitor

One view is that disasters crack society’s fragile social norms, releasing destructive primitive instincts in the form of hysteria, panic, crimes, and other acts of ruthless self-interest.

Sep 14 2009 | Read Full Review of A Paradise Built in Hell: The...

Englewood Review of Books

Tracing community responses from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to the Halifax explosion, Mexico City earthquake, New York City after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, along with dozens of other related disasters along the way, Rebecca Solnit makes a strong case in her new book A Paradise Built in H...

Jan 08 2010 | Read Full Review of A Paradise Built in Hell: The...

Broad Street Review

Rebecca Solnit argues that such communal calamities trigger a “civic temperament” in human nature that leads people to shine rather than go for each other’s throats— which scares the hell out of political leaders.

Sep 15 2009 | Read Full Review of A Paradise Built in Hell: The...

Stanford Social Innovation Review

On the contrary, by analyzing evidence gathered from a large data set of catastrophic events, Fritz concluded: “The widespread sharing of danger, loss, and deprivation produces an intimate, primarily group solidarity among the survivors, which overcomes social isolation, provides a channel for in...

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Zenpundit

London burns for four days as UK authorities dealt timidly and uncertainly with semi-organized swarms of brazen thugs, causing rioting to spread to other cities.

Aug 10 2011 | Read Full Review of A Paradise Built in Hell: The...

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