I’ve had my head so up in the clouds lately that I completely forgot to post about attending a lovely book event a few weeks ago. On March 15, 2016, I went to a book event + signing for Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone at Community Bookstore in Brooklyn, NY. A small group of my friends had decided that this would be our next book club read after A Little Life (book review coming soon! I’m actually going to a book event featuring that author of that work tomorrow evening…) and I coincidentally found that a book event was being hosted in our borough in the next few days! Talk about perfect timing!
Laing began her event by discussing the research she put into her book, which is a blend of mostly nonfiction with a brush of memoir. Laing describes the lives of (mostly visual) artists and their surrounding loneliness, regardless of the number of people they had in their lives. After moving to New York and finding herself without attachments, Laing occupied herself by exploring her own loneliness and the loneliness of different artists through 2 years of research into their lives and their art.
In her previous work The Trip to Echo Spring, she intertwined alcoholism with the lives of authors. At the event, Laing mentioned that she could’ve tied the lives of authors with the concept of loneliness too, but that she felt like urban loneliness was very visual.
When describing urban loneliness, which Laing also experienced when living in New York, she said something along the lines of (aka this is not a direct quote):
There’s an experience of being in a city where you can see much more than you can reach. You can see many people, but you can’t connect with them. You feel isolated and agonizingly exposed. They run parallel and intensify each other.
I think the idea that Laing articulated is something that anyone who has ever been in an urban setting has experienced: the feeling of being physically surrounded by other living beings, but being disconnected from social or emotional links to others. As Laing quite concisely added,
Loneliness isn’t a lack of people, it’s a lack of intimacy.
I’m very much looking forward to diving into The Lonely City soon and you can bet it will be added to my #findabook rotation and hopefully be discovered by a lonely wanderer.
Side note: I had never been to this bookstore before and I will be returning soon! Community Bookstore had the BEST kids + YA section I’ve seen in a New York bookstore. I’ve tried to find some specific titles at many bookstores in the area and Community Bookstore had more on the shelf than I’ve seen elsewhere!