xii, 236 pages ; 22 cm
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Monks and rascals -- The forging of a solitary -- I to myself (Henry David Thoreau) -- The psychology of the Earth (Paul Cézanne) -- Formidably alone (Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson) -- The generosity of bachelors (Henry James) -- All serious daring begins within (Eudora Welty) -- The lover of God (Rabindranath Tagore) -- A soundless island in a tideless sea (Zora Neale Hurston) -- A man alone, a single woman (Rod McKuen and Nina Simone) -- Those who seek beauty will find it (Bill Cunningham) -- From loneliness to solitude.
Combining memoir, social criticism, and research, the author explores what it means to be solitary and celebrates the notion, common in his Roman Catholic childhood, that solitude is a legitimate and dignified calling. Delves into the lives and works of nearly a dozen iconic "solitaries," including Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, Bill Cunningham, Cézanne, and Zora Neale Hurston.
"A meditation on solitude as a font of creativity and spirituality. Known for his lyrical prose and clear insight, Fenton Johnson explores what it means to be not "single"-meaningless outside of coupledom-but "solitary," able to be alone, inclined to mine the treasures of inner life. Americans tend to celebrate "fortress marriage," turning an equal right into an omnivorous expectation, marginalizing solitaries as odd, even potentially threatening. Johnson taps into an older tradition embodied by Trappist monks near the Kentucky home where he grew up, and by artists and writers including Paul Cézanne, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Henry David Thoreau, Henry James, Eudora Welty, Zora Neale Hurston, Rod McKuen, Nina Simone, and Bill Cunningham. Johnson includes his parents, who in workshop or garden found places to be alone; married people, too, can be solitaries in spirit. A hybrid of memoir, inspiration, social criticism, and celebration of the lives of great solitary artists, At the Center of All Beauty will resonate with anyone needing a break from the clamor of "society.""-- Provided by publisher.