Getting to know “The Lonely City“ by Olivia Laing & relating to Charles Bukowski

I took that book in the extraordinary times when we all had to change our plans because of the creation of the new world’s plan by the virus. I was spending my days in Rotterdam with 2.7 million inhabitants who also were touched by all changing virus. Rotterdam is always pretending to have a similar character as other big cities like New York therefore for me was not that unrelatable atmosphere written in the book inspired by the art of a big city. Before reading that book, I thought that I will start to see more wisdom gained from loneliness, but unfortunately, it gave the opposite side of realization what loneliness means for each of us living in an enormous society.

Who does get first into the game of loneliness: society or people because of society’s pressure? How economical and political structures can make us that lonely that we start to lack ourselves?

Loneliness is a picture of our society that made people participate in the same carnival of masks, roles, parts of the business, etc. While reading Olivia Laing’s book I saw not the deeper wisdom of loneliness but its wider picture with a bigger amount of dirty colors.

The book started with Edward Hopper – with an icon of loneliness expressing it by massive, vacant, not fully inhabited architecture of New York in paintings. Then followed other outstanding makers of masterpieces in the art world: Henry Darger, David Wojnarowicz, Klaus Nomi, Andrew Warhol, and their milieu. All of them left their color in description of loneliness and each color was unique. That does not call me for a proclivity to follow their ideas with which I hardly agree that they brought righteousness into the fight against intolerable society structure for all kinds of souls living there and their restricted permissive behavior (does the artist need to avoid every human being around him or her as Henry Darger did, that his artwork could express the complexity of his philosophical world? does the artist need to celebrate sexual freedom against society’s stigma like David Wojnarowicz did?). Little overviews of outsider artists brought me questions about their values. Did they had those kinds of qualities that after their life they could be proud of their fight or they mixed those values with their times’ society’s degradation to bring into the world what its sickness needed for transforming what is bad into the good. 

What is bad into the good

Call me now a lawyer of human values, but I do believe that each situation of our and other lives has more decisions than the creativity and imagination of a human could make. Art which appeared from a lonely lifestyle for me seems usually egocentric, toxic (but not only created by some artistic souls, also, most importantly, and way much more than those indigent souls – by society, by its toxic and egocentric waves which influenced their lives). Artworks of high self-observation not always mean a piece of a life lived by one individual, but also a piece of life influenced by society. Therefore art could be called the reproduction of mass. Though each artist in the book “The Lonely City“ had freedom for decision: how they could create and what. 

Usually, similar traumas, life experiences, childhood, lifestyle make artists and their audience relatable. In my opinion, art has a bigger force than the power to create stronger relationships between an artist and a community of different thinkers who often feel as not themselves in a ‘normal’ structure of society. And a bigger force than the strength of being different. 

Why a majority of artists are tempted to expose the dirt of humanity than to create potential beauty of it?

Unfortunately, we are humans. Big crowds of humans are like black holes: never enough, never full, never shining like stars. 

Like a poem “no help for that“ of Charles Bukowski declares:

‘there is a place in the heart that

will never be filled

a space

and even during the

best moments


the greatest


we will know it

we will know it

more than


there is a place in the heart that

will never be filled


we will wait



in that 


Well, in each situation are more options of decision than we can imagine or create. There are enclosed questions like ‘to be or not to be’. Options for that: ‘negative’ or ‘positive’. Between them is the contrast like between black and white objects. Let me add a couple of questions that would bring more colors into that philosophy. A question ‘how?’. And after ‘how?’ – ‘what?’. If an answer is ‘positive’ to the question ‘to be or not to be’how will you exist? Ant what will you leave after your existence? For what will your existence and deeds serve: for negative energy that destroys or positive – that heals, grows, blesses?

All mentioned talented men left their works which brought influence to the art world which we do have now. They also left manner of the art language which influenced by it followers imitate even they do not know what kind of personal life or public accidents stimulated those geniuses to create in a way which nowadays art world copies. 

In 20 century in New York artists had one common issue – loneliness. Did they not have any other option of how to interact with society than the one – isolation?

Everywhere is a potential place for emptiness, even in a heart – a place ‘that will never be filled’ (Bukowski). Only Jesus could fill it (Bible).


You can read more in personal blog of Dirižablis

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