Sunday, 3 March 2013

One kind of loneliness

Aeon magazine, a new e-magazine that publishes a substantial essay by a different author each day, is well worth a read. I particularly liked this essay by Olivia Laing on loneliness:

Some deluded people turn to writing as a cure for loneliness, which, as this quote from Rebecca Solnit suggests, is a bit like banging your head repeatedly against a brick wall to cure a headache:

‘Writing is lonely. It’s an intimate talk with the dead, with the unborn, with the absent, with strangers, with the readers who may never come to be and who, even if they do read you, will do so weeks, years, decades later. An essay, a book, is one statement in a long conversation you could call culture or history; you are answering something or questioning something that may have fallen still long ago, and the response to your words may come long after you’re gone and never reach your ears – if anyone hears you in the first place … Writing is a model for how indirect effect can be, how delayed, how invisible; no one is more hopeful than a writer, no one is a bigger gambler.’ - Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities (2004), pp. 64-5

There’s a book of short stories by Richard Yates whose title I have always loved for its alliterative loveliness and its strange precision: Eleven Kinds of Loneliness. But actually, I am with Laing. There is really only one kind of loneliness, the one that is 'like being hungry ... in a place where being hungry is shameful, and where one has no money and everyone else is full' and that is 'like mould or fur, a prophylactic that inhibits contact, no matter how badly contact is desired'.

Mundane quote for the day: ‘Nothing can match the loneliness of a pianist in a large hotel. All around him is just a hum of cocktails and small talk; he is more alone with his melody than he would be on an island. Yet at a particular moment, he stops and people applaud. You are doubly astonished: there was an end to this music then, and people were listening? He was playing something and he was not playing in vain? He seems stupefied himself. But he well knows, in the secret depths of his soul, that this applause only breaks out because his music has fallen silent, a silence these wild things notice in much the same way they notice the sugar melting in their glasses. So, like the bald prima donna, he quickly starts up with a new tune.’ - Jean Baudrillard, Cool Memories (1990), p. 223