SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2016 GORDON BURN PRIZE
CHOSEN AS 'BOOK OF THE YEAR' BY
Times Literary Supplement
When Olivia Laing moved to New York City in her mid-thirties, she found herself inhabiting loneliness on a daily basis. Increasingly fascinated by this most shameful of experiences, she began to explore the lonely city by way of art. Moving fluidly between the works and lives of some of the city's most compelling artists, 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.
The lonely city of the title is teeming with painters, filmmakers, writers, and thinkers. In her new book, Laing (The Trip to Echo Spring) creates a "map of loneliness," tracking its often-paradoxical contours in her own life as a transplant to New York City and traces how loneliness can inspire creativity. The central figures of the book Henry Darger, Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol, and David Wojnarowicz were all "hyper-alert to the gulfs between people, to how it can feel to be islanded amid a crowd." By focusing on four artists (others, like Billie Holiday, also make appearances), Laing's writing becomes expansive, exploring their biographies, sharing art analysis, and weaving in observations from periods of desolation that was at times "cold as ice and clear as glass." She invents new ways to consider how isolation plays into art or even the Internet (which turns her into an obsessed teenager, albeit one who calls the screen her "cathected silver lover"). For once, loneliness becomes a place worth lingering.