The Lonely City

The Lonely City : Adventures in the Art of Being Alone

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New Statesman
Times Literary Supplement

What does it mean to be lonely? How do we live, if we're not intimately engaged with another human being? How do we connect with other people? When Olivia Laing moved to New York City in her mid-thirties, she found herself inhabiting loneliness on a daily basis. Fascinated by the experience, she 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 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 deeply moving, The Lonely City is about the spaces between people and the things that draw them together, about sexuality, mortality and the magical possibilities of art. It's 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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Product details

  • Hardback | 336 pages
  • 144 x 220 x 31mm | 473g
  • Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Main
  • 9 b&w illustrations on text paper
  • 9781782111238
  • 50,283

Review Text

Both wonderful and necessary ANNE ENRIGHT Guardian, 'Best Books of 2016'
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Review quote

Both wonderful and necessary -- ANNE ENRIGHT * * Guardian, 'Best Books of 2016' * * Sensational . . . a beautiful evocation of a state of mind through artists from Hopper and Warhol to Wojnarowicz -- PHILIP HOARE * * New Statesman, 'Books of the Year' * * Gorgeously written and deeply intelligent * * Times Literary Supplement, 'Books of the Year 2016' * * I loved Olivia's Laing's mix of memoir and criticism -- DAVID NICHOLLS * * Observer, 'Best Books of 2016' * * I adored Olivia Laing's The Lonely City . . . Fascinating, surprising and moving at once, it's a book to which I'm sure I'll return * * Herald, 'Writers' Books of 2016' * * This year I'm hoping for Olivia Laing's The Lonely City -- SJ WATSON * * Observer, 'Best Books of 2016' * * The Lonely City is continually unexpected, stimulating and beautifully structured. I am in awe of Olivia Laing's insights, braininess and that something that feels like recklessness until it lands -- PETER CAREY A genre-blind book about everything: art and Aids, Warhol and Winnicott, Sontag and social media * * New Statesman, 'Books of the Year' * * A triumphant book . . . Laing is a brave writer, whose books open up fundamental questions about life and art * * Telegraph * * [Laing's] description of her acute loneliness feels unusually brave . . . Sublime * * The Times * * A new kind of literature . . . Endlessly, compulsively fascinating . . . by turns alluring and curious, angry and exciting -- PHILIP HOARE * * New Statesman * * Wonderfully freewheeling . . . constantly surprising . . . inspired * * Guardian * * Smart and oddly consoling . . . Laing makes the topic her own * * New York Times * * Exhilarating . . . beautifully integrated, original, compassionate -- MICHELE ROBERTS * * Independent * * Laing cuts close to the bone of a universal yet often unrelatable state, to home in on sensations that, she suggests, we are predisposed to forget; and to find solace in artists who, were it not for their work, would have been forgotten. These are the strokes of Laing's portraits: glowing souls in the middle of a long night * * Financial Times * * A gifted critic and biographer . . . a fascinating, eerie piece of writing * * Sunday Times * * One of the finest writers of the new non-fiction . . . Compelling and original * * Harpers Bazaar * * Remarkable . . . a memoir, an essay and a group biography all in one, which takes a difficult, almost taboo subject and deftly turns it over anew * * Evening Standard * * Considered, authoritative, evocative, empathetic, and full of insight . . . To join Laing in that atmosphere is to enter a world that is at once dark and lambent, and in which loneliness features not just as an eternal fall, but as one of the treasures of what it is to be fully, briefly, human -- MATTHEW ADAMS * * The National * * Luminously wise and deeply compassionate, The Lonely City is a fierce and essential work. Laing is a masterful biographer, memoirist and critic. Fearlessly tracing the roots of loneliness, its forbidding consequences, and its complicated and beautiful relationship with art, this is a powerful, poignant and magical book. Reading it made my heart ache yet filled me with hope for the world -- HELEN MACDONALD, author of H is for Hawk A remarkable combination of personal mediation and psychological and artistic inquiry, The Lonely City is always superbly written, fascinating and often sharply moving. Ultimately the book has a paradoxical effect: at the same time as it makes one aware of one's own inescapable solitude, it leaves one feeling less alone -- ADAM FOULDS, author of The Quickening Maze A devastating and intimate examination of urban loneliness. With a unique voice, and painstaking research, Laing explores the dark side of our cities as well as the redemptive power of communities -- GAVIN FRANCIS, author of Adventures in Human Being The Lonely City is a stunning homage to how extreme loneliness can make us more hospitable to the strangeness of others - to the risks and innovations of art and artists. Laing has written a classic that will be cherished for years to come -- DEBORAH LEVY, author of Swimming Home Blisteringly precise . . . Her gift as a critic is her ability to imaginatively sympathize with her subjects in a way that allows the art and life of the artist to go on radiating meaning after the book is closed * * Elle * * Accessible, bright and endlessly thought-provoking . . . a commentator of exceptional heart and voice * * Irish Independent * * Magical . . . reminding us of how it feels to be lonely, this book gently affirms our connectedness * * Boston Globe * * A beautiful meander of a book * * HANYA YANAGIHARA * * Connecting becomes less intimidating if the fear of failure is removed. This brave book is a step in that direction * * Economist * * Intensely involving and affecting . . . Laing's superb study extends far beyond art criticism * * The Lady * * Part memoir, part treatise on art and geography, Olivia Laing's book looks at loneliness and how public spaces and especially art can cure or calm this very modern condition * * Red * * A lovely thing. Exceptionally skillful at changing gears, Ms. Laing moves fluently between memoir, biography (not just of her principal cast but of a large supporting one), art criticism and the fruits of her immersion in 'loneliness studies' . . . Every page of The Lonely City exudes a disarming, deep-down fondness for humanity * * Wall Street Journal * *
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About Olivia Laing

Olivia Laing is a widely acclaimed writer and critic. Her work appears in numerous publications, including the Guardian, Observer, New Statesman, Frieze and New York Times. She's a Yaddo and MacDowell Fellow and was 2014 Eccles Writer in Residence at the British Library. Her first book, To the River, was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and the Dolman Travel Book of the Year. The Trip to Echo Spring was shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Biography Award and the 2014 Gordon Burn Prize. She lives in Cambridge.
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Rating details

22,080 ratings
3.91 out of 5 stars
5 34% (7,448)
4 36% (7,967)
3 21% (4,595)
2 6% (1,417)
1 3% (653)
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