Invisible wealth

Rebecca Solnit is one of my favourite writers. Her previous books include Wanderlust, A Field Guide to Getting Lost and Motion Studies about Eadweard Muybridge. As this (rather lukewarm) Observer review of her new book, The Faraway Nearby, notes, she ought to be far better known in the UK. I’ve nearly finished the book, best described as a memoir of illness, I suppose. I particularly liked this:

“Kindness sown among the meek is harvested in crisis, in fairy tales and sometimes in actuality. I know a man who lost a fortune suddenly and was penniless with a legal battle to fight and children to support. He found that he had another kind of wealth in the ties of affection and respect he had built up, wealth he would never otherwise have seen. Lawyers took on his case pro bono, the grocery store extended credit, the schools gave scholarships and he got by on wealth that was invisible before the money dried up.”

It’s what we economists would prosaically label ‘social capital’.

The Faraway Nearby

Her writing is probably an acquired taste – I can understand why some readers would find it too, well, Californian. If you’ve not tried, though, I’d strongly recommend giving it a go, especially if you like the genre constituted by authors like W.G.Sebald (in The Rings of Saturn) and the Iain Sinclair of his John Clare book, Edge of the Orison.

The Rings of Saturn: An English Pilgrimage

Edge of the Orison: In the Traces of John Clare’s ‘Journey Out of Essex’

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3 thoughts on “Invisible wealth

  1. Pingback: Our #economicsfest programmer @diane1859 on Rebecc… | Bristol Festival of Ideas

  2. ‘Invisible wealth’ is a lovely way of thinking about the positive aspects of social capital. As with all wealth though, it doesn’t guarantee happiness.

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