The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone
What does it mean to be lonely? How do we live, if we're not intimately engaged with another human being? How do we connect with other people? When Olivia Laing moved to New York City in her mid-thirties, she found herself inhabiting loneliness on a daily basis. Fascinated by the experience, she began to explore the lonely city by way of art. Moving fluidly between works and lives - from Edward Hopper's Nighthawks to Andy Warhol's Time Capsules, from Henry Darger's hoarding to David Wojnarowicz's AIDS activism - Laing conducts an electric, dazzling investigation into what it means to be alone, illuminating not only the causes of loneliness but also how it might be resisted and redeemed. Humane, provocative and deeply moving, The Lonely City is about the spaces between people and the things that draw them together, about sexuality, mortality and the magical possibilities of art. It's a celebration of a strange and lovely state, adrift from the larger continent of human experience, but intrinsic to the very act of being alive.
'Luminously wise and deeply compassionate, The Lonely City is a fierce and essential work. Laing is a masterful biographer, memoirist and critic. Fearlessly tracing the roots of loneliness, its forbidding consequences, and its complicated and beautiful relationship with art, this is a powerful, poignant and magical book. Reading it made my heart ache yet filled me with hope for the world.' -- HELEN MACDONALD, author of H is for Hawk
'A remarkable combination of personal mediation and psychological and artistic inquiry, The Lonely City is always superbly written, fascinating and often sharply moving. Ultimately the book has a paradoxical effect: at the same time as it makes one aware of one's own inescapable solitude, it leaves one feeling less alone.' -- ADAM FOULDS, author of The Quickening Maze
'A devastating and intimate examination of urban loneliness. With a unique voice, and painstaking research, Laing explores the dark side of our cities as well as the redemptive power of communities.' -- GAVIN FRANCIS, author of Adventures in Human Being
'The Lonely City is a stunning homage to how extreme loneliness can make us more hospitable to the strangeness of others - to the risks and innovations of art and artists. Laing has written a classic that will be cherished for years to come.' -- DEBORAH LEVY, author of Swimming Home
Olivia Laing is a widely acclaimed writer and critic. Her work appears in numerous publications, including the Guardian, Observer, New Statesman, Frieze and New York Times. She's a Yaddo and MacDowell Fellow and was 2014 Eccles Writer in Residence at the British Library. Her first book, To the River, was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and the Dolman Travel Book of the Year. The Trip to Echo Spring was shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Biography Award and the 2014 Gordon Burn Prize. She lives in Cambridge.