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The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone
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Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism

#1 Book of the Year from Brain Pickings

Named a best book of the year by NPR, Newsweek, Slate, Pop Sugar, Marie Claire, Elle, Publishers Weekly, and Lit Hub

A dazzling work of biography, memoir, and cultural criticism on the subject of loneliness, told through the lives of iconic artists, by the acclaimed author of The Trip to Echo Spring.

When Olivia Laing moved to New York City in her midthirties, she found herself inhabiting loneliness on a daily basis. Increasingly fascinated by the most shameful of experiences, she began to explore the lonely city by way of art. Moving 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 moving, The Lonely City is 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.

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Street Date:
03/01/2016
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781250039590
ASIN:
B00VE68J5W
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APA Citation (style guide)

Olivia Laing. (2016). The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone. Picador.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Olivia Laing. 2016. The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone. Picador.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Olivia Laing, The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone. Picador, 2016.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Olivia Laing. The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone. Picador, 2016. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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      • bioText: Olivia Laing is a writer and critic. Her first book, To the River, was published by Canongate to wide acclaim and shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize and the Dolman Travel Book of the Year. She has been the deputy books editor of the Observer, and writes for The Guardian, New Statesman, and The Times Literary Supplement, among other publications. She is a MacDowell Fellow, and has received grants from the Arts Council and the Authors' Foundation. She lives in Cambridge, England.
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fullDescription

Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism

#1 Book of the Year from Brain Pickings

Named a best book of the year by NPR, Newsweek, Slate, Pop Sugar, Marie Claire, Elle, Publishers Weekly, and Lit Hub

A dazzling work of biography, memoir, and cultural criticism on the subject of loneliness, told through the lives of iconic artists, by the acclaimed author of The Trip to Echo Spring.

When Olivia Laing moved to New York City in her midthirties, she found herself inhabiting loneliness on a daily basis. Increasingly fascinated by the most shameful of experiences, she began to explore the lonely city by way of art. Moving 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 moving, The Lonely City is 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.

reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Hanya Yanagihara, The New Yorker
      • content:

        "A beautiful meander of a book"

      • premium: False
      • source: Maria Popova
      • content: "An extraordinary more-than-memoir; a sort of memoir-plus-plus, partway between Helen MacDonald's H Is for Hawk and the diary of Virginia Woolf."
      • premium: False
      • source: Dwight Garner, The New York Times
      • content: "Olivia Laing, in her new book, The Lonely City, picks up the topic of painful urban isolation and sets it down in many smart and oddly consoling places. She makes the topic her own. ... Perhaps the best praise I can give this book is to concur with Ms. Laing's dedication: 'If you're lonely, this one's for you.' "
      • premium: False
      • source: Elle
      • content: "It's not easy to pull off switching between criticism and confession - and like Echo Spring, The Lonely City is an impressive and beguiling combination of autobiography and biography, a balancing act that Laing effortlessly performs. Her gift as a critic is her ability to imaginatively sympathize with her subject in a way that allows the art and life of the artist to go on radiating meaning after the book is closed."
      • premium: False
      • source: The Buffalo News
      • content: "A singular, fiercely candid and rare book."
      • premium: False
      • source: Publishers Weekly
      • content: "By focusing on four artists...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."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        February 1, 2016
        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.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        February 15, 2016
        A British journalist and cultural critic investigates how loneliness shapes art. When she first came to Manhattan, in her 30s, Laing (The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking, 2013, etc.) found her loneliness intensified by living in the city, surrounded by millions of people. Loneliness, writes the author in this absorbing melding of memoir, biography, art essay, and philosophical meditation, "doesn't necessarily require physical solitude, but rather an absence or paucity of connection, closeness, kinship: an inability, for one reason or another, to find as much intimacy as is desired." Her own inability to connect was caused partly by her "anxieties around appearance, about being found insufficiently desirable," and her discomfort with "the gender box to which I'd been assigned." Laing's mother had been a closeted gay woman until she was outed in the 1980s; her mother's partner was an alcoholic; and Laing grew up witnessing "chaotic and frightening scenes" and "coping with a simmering sense of fear and rage." The artists she features emerged from their own sources of pain, which fueled both a sense of isolation and a "hypervigilance for social threat," which causes the lonely person to grow increasingly "suspicious and withdrawn." Drawing on biographies, interviews, oral histories, and archival material, Laing sensitively explores the lives and works of artists such as Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol, Valerie Solanas, David Wojnarowicz, Henry Darger, and Klaus Nomi. Hopper's urban scenes, writes Laing, evoke "the way a feeling of separation, of being walled off or penned in, combines with a sense of near-unbearable exposure." Wojnarowicz's paintings, installations, photography, films, and performances focus "on how an individual can survive within an antagonistic society." Outsider artist Darger, a Chicago janitor, produced over 300 paintings, many disturbingly violent. His art "served as lightning rods for other people's fears and fantasies about isolation, its potentially pathological aspect." Although art may be generated by loneliness, writes Laing in this illuminating, enriching book, it has a significant "capacity to create intimacy."

        COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        October 15, 2015

        Laing opened her book career in 2014 with The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking, which was short-listed for the Ondaatje Prize and won front-page coverage in the New York Times Book Review. Her new book considers the concept of "aloneness" from the perspective of key artists, focusing on Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol, Henry Darger, and David Wojnarowicz and touching on luminaries from Alfred Hitchcock to Nan Goldin to Billie Holiday. Is this cool, or what?

        Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        Starred review from March 1, 2016
        Writer and critic Laing searches for answers to the puzzles of her life in the experiences and creative endeavors of others. In The Trip to Echo Spring (2014), she explores the impact alcoholism has had on various American writers. In her newest imaginative and poignant quest, shaped by her gift for entwining memoir with incisive biographical inquiries and astute interpretations, she looks to visual art for illumination of the true nature of loneliness. Her attempt to chart the complex relationship between loneliness and art, she explains, was catalyzed by a dark spell of alienation that seized her while she was living in wretched New York City sublets and bingeing on Internet videos and social media. Seeking an antidote, she immersed herself in Edward Hopper's life and paintings, responding most profoundly to his distinct perspective on urban life and the strange phenomenon of feeling hopelessly alone while surrounded by strangers. With loneliness as her lens, Laing discerns radical strategies of anxiety and consolation in Andy Warhol, from his persona as a living caricature to his worship of pop culture and reliance on the mediation of telephones, cameras, and tape recorders. As Laing chronicles the goings-on at Warhol's infamous Factory, she considers the paradox of both longing for acceptance and needing distance. The standoff between insiders and outsiders informs her sensitive telling of the tragic tale of Valerie Solanas, the woman who shot Warhol. Laing brings the same sympathetic receptivity to her profile of the self-taught Chicago artist Henry Darger, detecting compassion for abused and misfit children in his famously disturbing, violent, otherworldly illustrated epic. The artist who resonates the most for Laing is David Wojnarowicz, who survived a brutal boyhood and battering life on the streets before he began addressing issues of connection and aloneness in bold and unsparing photographs, films, drawings, and writings, which he hoped would help make somebody feel less alienated. Following Wojnarowicz's trail to the carnival of gay sex and rogue art on New York's abandoned piers in the 1970s and 1980s, Laing writes of her own transient years and wrestling with gender categories as a daughter raised by lesbians who felt that if she was anything, it was a gay boy. Ultimately, Wojnaraowicz delivers Laing to the 1980s AIDS epidemic, a hellish engine for loneliness that turned him into a grieving activist and then took his life. Laing perceives that loneliness is not only a sense of isolation but also of brokenness, and that art can be an annealing force. And like the artists she profiles, she refuses to look away from pain or simplify trauma, or deny anyone respect or dignity. Through her ardent research, empathetic response, original thought, courageous candor, and exquisite language, Laing joins the ever-growing pool of writersamong them Ta-Nehisi Coates, Hope Jahren, Jhumpa Lahiri, Leslie Jamison, Helen Macdonald, Sally Mann, Patti Smith, Tracy K. Smith, Edmund de Waal, and Terry Tempest Williamswho are transforming memoir into a daring and dynamic literary form of discovery that laces the stories of individuals into the continuum of humanity and the larger web of life on Earth to provocative and transforming effect.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2016, American Library Association.)

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shortDescription

Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism

#1 Book of the Year from Brain Pickings

Named a best book of the year by NPR, Newsweek, Slate, Pop Sugar, Marie Claire, Elle, Publishers Weekly, and Lit Hub

A dazzling work of biography, memoir, and cultural criticism on the subject of loneliness, told through the lives of iconic artists, by the acclaimed author of The Trip to Echo Spring.

When Olivia Laing moved to New York City in her midthirties, she found herself inhabiting loneliness on a daily basis. Increasingly fascinated by the most shameful of experiences, she began to explore the lonely city by way of art. Moving 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...

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Adventures in the Art of Being Alone
publisher
Picador