“What does it feel like to be lonely? It feels like being hungry: like being hungry when everyone around you is readying for a feast.” (p.11)
First of all, how come Olivia Laing came up with the idea of capturing loneliness in the form of a non fiction book? Sure we can see, smell and capture loneliness everywhere—in a ballad love song, Lang Leav-ish insta poets’ works in our instagram feeds, even in our packed schedule and crowded train ride home after long hours of a busy day.
What causes of loneliness? A rejection from the society, illness, the loss of the loved ones?
Specifically, Laing writes about the artists and their artworks as the reflection of such feeling. Do all artists feel lonely? Or is it loneliness, the outcast feeling, the isolation, not belong anywhere that finally made them artists? In Lonely City, Laing explores the life of artists such as Klaus Nomi, Billie Holiday, Andy Warhol, David Wojnarowicz whose body of works somehow give a better and closer understanding about what it means to be lonely, how it affects people and the complex relationship between loneliness and art.
For example, she takes Henry Darger who spent his life as a janitor and underground painter, a hoarder whose works mostly about his missing childhood especially because he was treated so brutally bad and had limited access to live a normal life as a kid, let alone a happy one.
Or takes Warhol, who’d been misunderstood all his life and finally in his own terms explain how technology has liberated him from the burden of needing other people. In short, to beat his own loneliness.
Surely, Laing does not forget the loneliness in this modern day: our screen culture. The time when people would be willing to pay a good deal of money in order to participate, to have presence in the virtual world. Or in short: to connect. Because people are actually longing for contact and attention: the basic human needs.
Overall, this book is a labour of love, persistence and hard work. It feels raw and honest. And maybe because the book reveals one thing we humans might have something in common: our vulnerability.
PS: Anyway, will talk about this topic; loneliness Vs art, tomorrow March 8, 2019 at @bersuaka at 8 PM. Come?