San Francisco, California

The Lonely City

I’ve been struggling to read for quite some time as my focus can barely hold on long enough to grasp a paragraph or two. And this is only made worse by a crush; a few weeks ago I started flirting with someone that I’ve known for a decade (I’ve read everything she’s ever written) and so when we started talking she recommended a string of upsettingly lovely books to me.

I rolled my eyes and groaned loudly as she did because I knew what would happen; in an attempt to woo her I would pick them all up, I would read every single damn one of them in hope of learning who this distant person really is and what makes her tick, what she sees in books and novels and writing. Is there some great topic that I missed? Is there a novelist or writer that I’ve never heard of who I’ll be obsessed with thanks to her?

So now every surface in my apartment, from floor to ceiling, is doused in books because I am an idiot.

Anyway, after about three weeks of stops and starts, desperately trying to resettle my focus, I just finished Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City and it’s quite lovely. Although, I feel like it’s the sort of book that should be half its size because then it would be non-stop club bangers the whole way through, but even then the slowish parts are worth holding on for. Any who, The Lonely City is a collection of essays about loneliness and how art can help us fight off those feelings of self loathing and abandonment.

For example, Olivia writes of her experience with Twitter:

In the first year or two that I was there it felt like a community, a joyful place; a lifeline, in fact, considering how cut off I otherwise was. At other times, though, the whole thing seemed insane, a trading-off of time against nothing tangible at all: a yellow star, a magic bean, a simulacrum of intimacy, for which I was surrendering all the pieces of my identity, every element except the physical carcass in which I was supposedly contained. And it only took a few missed connections or lack of likes for the loneliness to resurface, to be flooded with the bleak sense of having failed to make contact.

Or her experience of moving to New York:

...the way I recovered a sense of wholeness was not by meeting someone or by falling in love, but rather by handling the things that other people had made, slowly absorbing by way of this contact the fact that loneliness, longing, does not mean one has failed, but simply that one is alive.