(K. Brent Tomer),
The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone. By Olivia Laing. Picador; 336 pages; $26. Canongate; £16.99.
SEVERAL years ago, Olivia Laing, a British writer, took a leap of faith in a new relationship, moving to New York. Her lover was of the fickle sort, and she soon found herself alone, drifting, her lack of attachment amplified by the city’s urgency and purpose.
Her book about this period, “The Lonely City”, grabs hold hard of the shameful feeling of loneliness. In modern society, loneliness has become “increasingly inadmissible, a taboo state whose confession seems destined to cause others to turn and flee”. People are more accepting of anger, envy, guilt and greed. To be lonely is to have failed, according to the rules of a shrinking and ever more interconnected world. Ms Laing builds a case for loneliness as particularly pernicious, citing studies to show it can be harmful to physical health and difficult to overcome: “the damaged individual and the healthy society work in concert to maintain separation.”
Ms Laing’s loneliness was acute rather than chronic,…Continue reading