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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Lonely City

The Lonely City

Adventures in the Art of Being Alone

Olivia Laing

Picador

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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.

National Book Critics Circle Award - Nominee, Slate Book Review Best Books of the Year, National Book Critics Circle Awards - Nominee, NPR Best Book of the Year, Goodreads Choice Awards

Praise for The Lonely City

"A beautiful meander of a book" --Hanya Yanagihara, The New Yorker

"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." --Maria Popova

"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.' " - Dwight Garner, The New York Times

"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." - Elle

"A singular, fiercely candid and rare book." - The Buffalo News

“[An] imaginative and poignant quest….Through her ardent research, empathetic response, original thought, courageous candor, and exquisite language, Laing joins the ever-growing pool of writers—among 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 Will… More…



"A beautiful meander of a book" --Hanya Yanagihara, The New Yorker

"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." --Maria Popova

"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.' " - Dwight Garner, The New York Times

"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." - Elle

"A singular, fiercely candid and rare book." - The Buffalo News

“[An] imaginative and poignant quest….Through her ardent research, empathetic response, original thought, courageous candor, and exquisite language, Laing joins the ever-growing pool of writers—among 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 Williams—who 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.” – Booklist (starred review)

“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.” - Publishers Weekly

"[An] absorbing melding of memoir, biography, art essay, and philosophical meditation...[An] illuminating, enriching book." - Kirkus Reviews

"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, it is powerful, poignant and magical. 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 In the Wolf's Mouth

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Reviews from Goodreads

Olivia Laing

Olivia Laing is a writer and critic. Her first book, To the River, was published by Canongate in the U.K. 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. Her critically acclaimed book The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking, is published by Picador. She lives in Cambridge, England.

image of Olivia Laingo
Jonathan Ring

Picador

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