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A profound meditation on accepting, and celebrating, one’s solitude.
Whether seeking more time for solitude or suffering what seems a surfeit of it, readers will find the best of companions here. Fenton Johnson’s lyrical prose and searching sensibility explores what it means to choose to be solitary and celebrates the notion, common in his Roman Catholic childhood, that solitude is a legitimate and dignified calling. He delves into the lives and works of nearly a dozen iconic “solitaries” he considers his kindred spirits, from Thoreau at Walden Pond and Emily Dickinson in Amherst, to Bill Cunningham photographing the streets of New York; from Cézanne (married, but solitary nonetheless) painting Mont Sainte-Victoire over and over again, to the fiercely self-protective Zora Neale Hurston. Each character portrait is full of intense detail, the bright wakes they’ve left behind illuminating Fenton Johnson’s own journey from his childhood in the backwoods of Kentucky to his travels alone throughout the world and the people he has lost and found along the way.
Combining memoir, social criticism, and devoted research, At the Center of All Beauty will resonate with solitaries and with anyone who might wish to carve out more space for solitude.
Author: Fenton Johnson
Paperback Published March 2021 256 pages
Hardcover originally published May 2020
In studies of the lives of beloved artists, and in beautiful meditations on his own life, Fenton Johnson encourages us to understand solitariness as consecration, a fecund, rich condition for the pursuit of beauty. Fenton Johnson’s writing is so companionable and wise that it enacts what it counsels…it converts sterile loneliness to creative solitude.