Finishing the Hat: A Writer’s Pursuit of Loneliness


Finishing the Hat: A Writer’s Pursuit of Loneliness

In 2005, the Naples-born sculptor, Giancarlo Neri, created a work entitled The Writer – a 30 foot tall table and chair made of wood and steel. Exhibited in the middle of a grassy field in London’s Hampstead Heath – as homage to the famed park’s associations with Keats and Coleridge – spectators interacted with the sculpture in a variety of ways. Some viewed it from a distance; others circled its perimeter. Some lay beneath it; others looped the massive legs on bicycle. Its grand scale and curious posturing dwarfed both viewer and nature. At length, the sculpture produced an unsettling impression: It didn’t fit. It would never fit it. For all its commanding mass, it remained distant, disconnected – communicating perfectly the crushing loneliness – the aloneness – of the writer.

Loneliness springs from a number of sources. It can be the product of emotional or mental illness. For such symptomatic loneliness – beyond personal control – treatment is readily available. But loneliness – aloneness – can also be a consequence of individual choice. For example, the artist who chooses aloneness so as to fulfill one purpose and one purpose only: To make art. It is this self-inflicted – immensely problematic – aloneness of which I write. This category of loneliness – subject to personal control – can’t be cured with Prozac or Paxil. The only “cure” is for the artist to make a different choice. Sounds easy enough. Why not simply concede this aloneness? Because to do so may be in diametric contradiction to the artist’s raison d’etre, and, once surrendered, may lead to a sacrificing – or even forgoing – of this single purpose.

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