The Lonely City

The Lonely City

Adventures in the Art of Being Alone

Book - 2016
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"You can be lonely anywhere, but there is a particular flavor to the loneliness that comes from living in a city, surrounded by thousands of strangers. The Lonely City is a roving cultural history of urban loneliness, centered on the ultimate city: Manhattan, that teeming island of gneiss, concrete, and glass. What does it mean to be lonely? How do we live, if we're not intimately involved with another human being? How do we connect with other people, particularly if our sexuality or physical body is considered deviant or damaged? Does technology draw us closer together or trap us behind screens? Olivia Laing explores these questions by traveling deep into the work and lives of some of the century's most original artists, among them Andy Warhol, David Wojnarowicz, Edward Hopper, Henry Darger and Klaus Nomi."-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York :, Picador,, 2016
Edition: First U.S. edition
ISBN: 9781250039576
Characteristics: 315 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm


From the critics

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May 23, 2019

Imagination through her viewfinder (New York here is a prop of scenes) refreshed and gained me new understandings of some of my (once upon) favorite artists. Timely, before “the gentrification of my emotion” languish on the commonly available or mere classic, and forgo the marginalized, the provocateur, the obscure.
I relish the narratives of her subjective analysis in words, but prefer the appreciation of visual art in my actual view.

The main issue I encountered is “lonely” tackled here. Author’s loneliness was defined as chronic shameful feeling while not intimately engaged with another human being, which appears to be generalized or one kind only. Aren’t all accomplished artists (especially visual artists, writers included, and many performing artists) lonely? How about psychological proclivity? The book tried to cover broader and deeper issues, nonetheless I don’t find a focal point.
One cause of feeling lonely is societal alienation and discrimination. I guess artists collected (except for Edward Hopper) here fit in such kind of loneliness.

The book is articulate on artists striving in adversity (“the art of being alone”), but I don’t see elucidation on impact of conventional sense of loneliness over art creation. It's not about a benign topic such as "Geniuses are loners". It reveals the insidious surrounding us.

Feb 09, 2019

I really liked Olivia Laing's previous book, "The Trip to Echo Springs," which used the lens of drinking and alcoholism to look at writers. In "The Lonely City," it's the slightly more abstract concept of loneliness that she uses as her hook. It's somewhat broader and also more personal, as she looks at Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol, Henry Darger, artist David Wojnarowicz, and herself. It may not help you feel less alone, but it will make you feel better.

Dec 11, 2018

After I read the jacket blurb I immediately disagreed with Olivia's take on being in NYC alone. Personally, I would have loved to be in NYC by myself! Yes, it was an unfortunate scenario of her breakup after moving to another country to be with that person, and yes we did not hear too much about it after the introduction, but I was amazed at the artists that she did research on. Never have I ever heard of most of these people, except Andy Warhol, and I barely knew anything about him except that he was a bit eccentric, and now I know a bit more about how he came to be that way.

The Lonely City started me on the Olivia Laing (mini) odyssey. I have one more book of hers to read (The Trip to Echo Springs). The Lonely City is recommendable to anyone who likes or wants to learn about NYC and it's art scene first and foremost, and to anyone who likes biographies.

Aug 18, 2018

I guess I was too lonely to read about loneliness as this just made me straight up sad. After about 20 pages, I wanted to pat the author on the arm and tell her she's not alone. But since I was alone, I had to just tell myself it's just being human. I kept reading for another couple pages, skimmed through a few more chapters and decided this is definitely not the book to read when you're alone and feeling sad. Although it's nice to know people are more lonely than you and more sad than you, those people (the author) keeps mentioning friends she stays with and that sort of thing. I don't have that kind of friend. So who wins the lonely city award? Not her. If you have friends you can stay with, you are not in a lonely city. You just had a bad break-up, girl.

Apr 17, 2018

A beautifully written book whose topic matter made me inexorably sad. Laing writes extremely well and blends autobiographical with critical writing very well.

Feb 09, 2017

Olivia Laing's writing is exquisite.
Seriously blinding, a diamond of words,
She connects her own loneliness with disturbingly isolated artists, of the outlier variety.
It's one of those works you keep wanting to underline,even if the book doesn't belong to you.
Her insight is almost psychoanalytical.

Oct 04, 2016

Please can we have a hard copy of this book?

Cynthia_N Aug 27, 2016

Initially I was disappointed in this book. I was expecting to hear of the author's adventures through art but instead I got the author exploring loneliness through the lives of artists who lived in NYC. Once I accepted the book as it was, I found I enjoyed hearing about the lives of the artists she chose. It was quite interesting!

Jul 29, 2016

A VERY interesting and original book! Well worth a read.

Jul 13, 2016

Rougher than I thought it would be. Wanted to hear more about the author's experiences and less about the artists she profiled, many of whom suffered in uncomfortable and unfortunate ways that didn't necessarily seem to be about loneliness.

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