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  • The Lonely City

  • Adventures in the Art of Being Alone
  • By: Olivia Laing
  • Narrated by: Zara Ramm
  • Length: 8 hrs and 13 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: Biographies & Memoirs
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (28 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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?

When Olivia Laing moved to New York City in her mid-30s, she found herself inhabiting loneliness on a daily basis. Fascinated by the experience, she began to explore the lonely city by way of art. Moving fluidly between works and lives - 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 deeply moving, The Lonely City is about the spaces between people and the things that draw them together, about sexuality, mortality and the magical possibilities of art. It's 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.

©2016 Olivia Laing (P)2016 Audible, Ltd

Critic Reviews

"A triumphant book.... Laing is a brave writer, whose books open up fundamental questions about life and art." ( Telegraph)
"[Laing's] description of her acute loneliness feels unusually brave.... Sublime." ( The Times)

What listeners say about The Lonely City

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

I'm not sure why this book was written

This is self-indulgent poverty porn where the author (who is so lonely, so very lonely, which is pretty much all she is telling about herself) makes the destruction of a gritty grotty homosexual pre-aids New York city into her own personal tragedy. Dear Olivia would have been excluded from that scene too, but she doesn't consider that, too busy romanticising poverty, art, homosexuality and abuse. And the past. The present is terrible. The future unthinkable. Everything is awful.
If this is meant to be a scholastic work it's shallowly researched, if it's meant to be a memoir it doesn't actually reveal much about Olivia herself. It felt like Olivia Lang spent a year in New York - for whatever reason, she tells us why she got there, but not why she stayed while being so lonely. So lonely. She's so lonely. She keeps telling us that. She's too lonely to make friends. I guess she needed to finance the trip so she wrote this book.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Unknown
  • 13-09-2020

Misleading

This book is more art history than a reflection on being lonely in a city. Reading about the lives of specific artist was not was what I thought the book was going to be about.
Narration is fine and easy to listen too.
I did order a copy of SCUM by Valerie Solanas based on the discussion in the book about her work. While book felt more like a study/ course text than a personal journey.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Ms. N. S. Bastemeijer
  • 29-08-2018

Disappointed

Rated 2stars because I was under the impression this book was about a woman who was lonely and how she dealt/coped with it. The book appeared to be mostly about the artist Andy Warhol and I was not entertained. In fact, I was bored to death by this story as it added nothing to my life and I wouldn’t recommend the book. I feel that synopsis is misleading and isn’t what the book is about at all :(

7 people found this helpful

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  • R P
  • 13-10-2020

Human loneliness, art and now.

One of the best books I have encountered in a while, its strings together personal experience, art & the artist biographies, with a commentary on the bazar (lonely) uncertainty in which we live today. Thought provoking and reflective - difficult to put down.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-04-2018

Exceptional audiobook

Great, plain narration with emotional resonance conveyed where necessary. Plus extremely interesting meditations on art.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Pansy Girl
  • 25-07-2017

Not what I expected.

There was alot of sexuality and the author obviously read alot into the subject but it wasn't clear how graphic the book would be before reading it. The book is full of many stories which have been well written and researched but I'd liked to have heard more about how loneliness affects the process of making art and not so much on sex. I would not have listened to this or have spent my money on this if I'd know. I am disappointed this wasn't made more clear from the blurb. I feel I have wasted my money as after the first couple of chapters it talks about sex and relationships of artists for almost all of the length of the book and less about the art its self, by then it was to late to get a refund.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Niamh Dee
  • 13-08-2021

A tender and intimate look at loneliness and art.

I loved it, it changed my perspective on artists such as Warhol. I never put much weight in his work and found it so commercial and cold and yet now I understand why these qualities make perfect sense in his work and why there is actually a lot of pain and emotion in his work. I was impressed by the way the author gave her own feelings and yet told the stories of others with care and understanding but with a raw and truthful lense.

Definitely recommend.

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  • Mrs. Francesca Diebschlag
  • 02-08-2021

A wonderful, wise and relevant book.

In this book, Olivia Laing explores the experience of loneliness through the lives and work of four artists: Hopper, Warhol, Wajnarowicz, and Darger, weaving their biographies with her own experience. It is both scholarly and deeply humane, and so very relevant to our times, all the more so in the light of the isolation imposed by the Covid pandemic.

The reader was very good, apart from the odd mispronunciation (e.g. tempura for tempera). Surely it's part of the job of a reader to look up unfamiliar terms, or those that don't seem to make sense. But apart from that, she did capture the poetry and whole-heartedness of Laing's writing, no easy task.

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  • Gary Smillie
  • 13-07-2021

Really, truly excellent

Such a unique, powerful and thoughtful book. Accessible even for an Art ignoramus like myself and beautifully, touchingly personal at the same time. Superb

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  • AC
  • 08-10-2018

Wonderful

A brilliant blend of memoir, psychology, philosophy, centred around the fascinating lives and works of several artists. Really interesting. I think the only thing the audiobook may lack compared to the book is pictures of the art discussed, but I will definitely listen again and look these up.

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  • A. Treffeisen
  • 04-04-2018

Loved it!

Many references to artists, books and movies which, when read and seen, would make this book an even more intense and gripping read. So I'm sure I pick it up some time again. That adds to the value of from a good book, isn't it?

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