The holiday season is a time of great emotions, especially loneliness. In 2017, the Surgeon General declared loneliness to be an “epidemic” in America, where “more than 40% of her adults” suffer from loneliness. Globally, rates rose even higher when the coronavirus pandemic put gatherings at risk.
What makes things difficult is that loneliness is not the same as loneliness. Likewise, as anyone who’s ever been with other people and felt lonely knows, being physically close to people doesn’t necessarily make them less lonely. Emotions flare up when emotional needs for intimacy and belonging are not met.
Thankfully, social encounters aren’t the only way to connect. Perhaps you, like me, find peace and comfort in art. Film, sculpture, and theater all fit in, but I don’t think there’s anything quite like rushing through a book. right there, that the author understands the essentials of what it feels like to be alive. As essayist Olivia Laing writes, “The strange gift of solitude is that it grounds us in our common humanity. Others survived.” These eight books make great companions when you’re feeling lonely.
milk fedMelissa Broder
Broder’s second novel tells the story of 24-year-old Rachel infatuated with Miriam, a voluptuous Orthodox Jewish woman who works at the local frozen yogurt shop, and probably doesn’t want Rachel to come back. continue. (or can she?) milk fed It captures a certain, really dark loneliness that tries to break out of the LA stand-up comedy scene. It combines its plot with research into the disappearance of an estranged mother, and some of the best sex scenes I’ve ever read. walk around in, gather her boyfriend “by default” when she’s “too hungry and too tired to cope”, and let go of her hand. Broder, a poet, captures Rachel’s sense of alienation so remarkably well and makes her every sentence so sharp that it’s easy to miss how deeply it pierces. Of her mediocre therapist she said: Worshiping her Miriam opens Rachel to a future where treating her own body with disdain and pursuing her unruly desires can be a kind of mitzvah. milk fed It treats the tumultuous path to queer growth and self-acceptance with the respect that both deserve.
lonely cityOlivia Lang
Laing’s exploration of loneliness, which intersects art-making, technology, and her experience of moving to New York in her thirties, is one of the books I recommend most often. She has written gorgeously about visual her artists David Wojnarowitz, Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol, and many others expressing something perceptive about loneliness. Her writing is a hot bath for the senses, but the water in the bath is seltzer: She describes the performance art work of internet entrepreneur Josh Harris. quiet, during the last month of 1999, 60 people were forced into bunkers that the public could observe as “month-long parties, psychological experiments, hedonistic prison camps, or forced human zoos.” I spent my time trapped in I rarely laugh at this hard-to-read cultural critique, especially on this potentially uninteresting topic. Before the bunker was closed by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani (out of concern that it was a cult), the bunker was a brutal display of sex, defecation, and aggression, despite the project’s intended spirit of unity. had become This anecdote is one of many in which Laing chopped crude crystal and carved it to reveal its luster. lonely city Makes that heavy research endlessly interesting.
Jesus’ sonby Dennis Johnson
For many writers, Johnson is the patron saint of solitude and his semi-autobiographical cult hit, son of jesus, is a scripture for learning how to write aching volcano prose. Called “Fuckhead” throughout the linked story collection, his narrator craves connection but settles for alcohol and heroin. Fuckhead’s prophetic and raucous voice said, “The traveling salesman gave me pills that felt like the lining of my blood vessels had been scraped away… I know every raindrop by its name.” “The skies are blue and the dead are returning.” In the opening story, “Hitchhiking Car Crash,” Fuckhead gets into a car with a young family just before he gets into a terrible accident. I will never forget what he said to the wife of the man who was driving another car when she learned that her husband had died. I’m glad I lived to hear that! I went looking for that feeling everywhere. These brief moments of transcendence are often experienced in fellow misfits, staving off the existential loneliness that tries to drag Fuckhead down, if only until the drug takes effect.
real lifeBrandon Taylor
In Taylor’s debut novel, Wallace, a black, queer young man from Alabama, navigates the racism and tricky interpersonal politics of the predominantly white Ph.D. Midwest program. real life A masterclass in portraying the loneliness that permeates a crowd, including those who ostensibly care. A romantic relationship with a supposedly heterosexual classmate tests the limits of Wallace’s sense of alienation (partially self-imposed) from his peers. “There is a difference between being in someone, being in someone, and being with that person,” he muses. “There is an impossibility to the idea of being in them simultaneously.” One of his most moving chapters is his nine-page It’s an interlude. Whether Taylor evokes a chaotic dinner party where everyone says the wrong thing, or explains how it’s difficult, perhaps impractical, to be completely seen and seen by others. One of the most important chronicles of social conflict, whether or not.
bluesby Maggie Nelson
blues A group of prose poems, or perhaps a book-length essay, about the carnage of lost love. It’s probably my way of making my life feel ‘on-going’ instead of a sleeve of ash falling from a lit cigarette. blues Whether caring for a friend who suddenly becomes quadriplegic or remembering her own grief after being left by another woman, Nelson is contemplative, devastating, and unexpectedly funny. How do you fall in love with color? “It started slow. Appreciation, familiarity. Then one day it got more serious… it worked out Personal’” Nelson wrote. Color does not replace the loneliness of the speaker, it becomes a container for it. This makes us think about Louise Gluck’s line, “At the end of suffering/There was a door,” and how loss squeezes us into the arms of what can make us feel embraced. increase. Blue is Nelson’s door to her hopes, a world where she can be “a student of light, not aspiration.”
Don’t Let Me Be LonelyClaudia Rankin
whether you are a fan of citizen— Rankin’s best-selling meditation on the increasing toxicity of everyday racism — or new to her work, her followers will insist you don’t go unnoticed Don’t Let Me Be LonelyA seminal collection of news stories, photographs, and personal stories, it unravels the George W. Bush-era cancer-and-depression ravages of America’s consistently inadequate response to white supremacy. Rankin’s words are frank and engaging. One of his poems in conversational form reads: / yes. / That’s what we can’t do to each other. Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Experimental structure is similar blues, except that the disaster at its heart is cultural rather than romantic. . No one else could say, I know how you feel. Despite the uncertainty of her subject, the author has an assured voice that never falters.
broken heartChelsea Beaker
Beaker’s collection chronicles the Californians, mostly women, of the Central Valley who go to extremes to escape life, or at least to get some air. broken heart The first story opens with “I didn’t know anything about mining when I got into it with Spider-Dick, who was working on a barge.” The bold choice to call the first named character “Spider Dick” fits perfectly with Bieker’s clear candor and vivid portrayal of people brought to life on the page.The protagonists have learned to find grace and humor in their constant resentment. Their dangerous desires, such as considering pursuing a career in creative writing, bring them pain and magnificence. broken heart As if one of the main characters had a gun pointed at my head.
¡Holla Papi!, John Paul Brammer
Brammer writes about Grindr connections in college: same name, Oh Papi! It’s the loneliness of being closed and biracial and the raucous contemplation of the ecstasy of living on your own terms. Like, answer your reader’s questions with unobtrusive honesty. Of the cognitive dissonance he felt, he said, “Getting naked with my ‘best friend’ in high school was nothing more than two heterosexual brothers doing normal heterosexual things.” Brammer’s essays tackle eternal questions such as “How do I come to terms with the years I’ve lost in my closet?” and “How do you keep chasing your dreams when you’re definitely failing?” To do. We don’t just see you succeed. The results are gentle, hysterical, and wise.
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