We're so used to thinking of desires, both as they're expressed and repressed, as a private matter of sexuality and identity that it's almost shocking to hear the word in this social context.
One can easily think of Solnit's look at hope regained as a kind of parable of the Bush-Obama transition, but if A Paradise Built in Hell is a product of its time, it's not because it channels our new president's good tidings. Instead, Solnit's work is best read as a sustained critique of the degraded view of ordinary citizens taken by the Bush administration: in its eyes we were craven, greedy, vindictive, and worse. Solnit says no, not when it counts. It takes real imagination to answer the intellectual crisis provoked by the reign of W with a study in altruism. What's even more surprising, she succeeds.