The Lonely City by Olivia Laing

There are some people who can’t stand being alone. You might know one. Their self esteem so depends on the constant affirmation of others that 24 hours spent in their own company is too upsetting. They constantly busy themselves with social life, joining activities, running committees, catering for pets, having babies – anything to avoid what Philip Larkin, in ‘Aubade’ ( called ‘what’s really always there’.

When Olivia Laing moved to New York City in her mid-thirties, she found herself inhabiting loneliness on a daily basis. Increasingly fascinated by what we are made to feel is a most shameful experience, Laing 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 the depredations of the AIDS crisis the author reflects deeply on what loneliness means. This is a thought provoking and humane look at one great human possibility – how being alone can transmute into the beauty of solitude. An excellent read.

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Rent a cottage on Rannoch Moor for a year. Make sure there is no TV, Internet, radio or mobile phone. Begin the long silence. From a trunk load of books pluck out The Lonely City by Olivia Laing. I guarantee you will know yourself better at the end of that 12 months.

336 pages in Canongate

First published 2016

ISBN  978-1782111238

Olivia Laing

Live here alone with a trunk load of books for a year?

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