Book Club

The Lonely City

If you’re lonely, this one’s for you.

Olivia Laing

What is loneliness and why do we feel it? I think we’re all lonely. I think it’s good to feel loneliness. Sometimes loneliness can help you reconnect with you who are and who you want to be. 

Author Olivia Laing tells us her personal account and offers us her deep reflections on loneliness when she moved to New York City in her mid-thirties. 

You can be lonely anywhere, but there is a particular flavour to the loneliness that comes from living in a city, surrounded by millions of people…cities can be lonely places, and in admitting this we see that loneliness doesn’t necessarily require physical solitude, but rather an absence or paucity of connection, closeness, kinship: an inability, for one reason or another, to find as much intimacy as is desired. Unhappy, as the dictionary has it, is a result of being without the companionship of others.

Olivia Laing

Her personal reflections feel like secret diary entries that I was lucky enough to read. Olivia makes me feel relevant. She makes me feel secure. In one way Olivia represents the mind of the masses: the people you think are doing well, seemingly social, living among many others in a powerful city with it’s own heartbeat. Yet, Olivia makes it acceptable to feel the solitary pull into the dark room of loneliness. That’s the crux of this book. 

Olivia’s search for answers is a captivating account of how our human emotional system works. Her poignant questions reflect the society (and digital world) we’re all living in.

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, particularly if we don’t find speaking easy? And is technology helping with these things? Does it draw us closer together, or trap us behind the scenes?

Olivia Laing

Loneliness is personal…loneliness is collective; it is a city. As to how to inhabit it, there are no rules and nor is there any need to feel shame, only to remember that the pursuit of individual happiness does not trump or excuse our obligations to each other. We are in this together, this accumulation of scars, this world of objects, this physical and temporary heaven that so often takes on the countenance of hell. What matters is kindness; what matters is solidarity. What matters is staying alert, staying open, because if we know anything from what has gone before us, it is that the time for feeling will not last.

Olivia Laing

This book feels like you’re wearing a big sweater with holes in it on a cold morning. You can still feel the bite in the air. You’re warm, but wondering how you’ll get rid of the chill. But that’s how loneliness feels, right?

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