The Lonely City (Olivia Laing)

A writer friend of mine recommended this book to me, and I really enjoyed it. I'm always musing over this interesting ability to feel acutely lonely while surrounded by people — something I've found to be highly prevalent in larger cities where one is almost never alone but often lonely. Laing's book takes this condition as its premise, wondering about the function of loneliness, as a universal human emotion, in our contemporary world.

She examines loneliness through art and biographical sketches of a handful of specific artists (Hopper and Warhol being two of the most famous). I'm curious about what I perceive to be a growing trend in nonfiction: writers grappling with topics that were once the terrain of social psychologists, but are now being taken up by writers who elect to turn to art as the foundation for their explorations. (Gish Jen's The Girl At the Baggage Claim is another example of this.)

In any case, Laing's book was a thoughtful and smart foray into the ins and outs of loneliness, and one I thoroughly enjoyed. One suggestion: take a moment to briefly familiarize yourself with the general flavor of each artist's works before reading the chapter focused on them for a more in-depth perspective.

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