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At the Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life Paperback – 26 February 2021

4.5 out of 5 stars 80 ratings

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[A] flexible and forgiving approach to the subject of solitude.... [A] thoughtful exploration.--Geoff Wisner "Wall Street Journal"

A case Johnson makes through his quiet, heart-full prose is that solitude is a wellspring for creativity that we would do well to pay more attention to. It is a message I didn't know how desperate I was to hear so magnificently articulated until I read it.--Chris La Tray "Rumpus"

A fluid pastiche of memoir, social critique, literary criticism, mystical insights, and philosophical reflections.... [P]oetic yet profoundly accessible.--Brian Bromberger "Bay Area Reporter"

In a tone that's warm, philosophical but familiar (this could be a conversation over tea or bourbon), Johnson touches on topics as varied as traveling alone, world religions, his parents and the Trappist monks next door, the monastic life, time as an illusion, the practice of celibacy, the gift of silence. It is a book for our times.--Christine Wald-Hopkins "Arizona Daily Star"

In these times of enforced solitude, what better book to shelter in place with than this one, which squarely places you At the Center of All Beauty.--Camille Cusumano "Medium"

In this lyrical yet finely argued book, Johnson sets out to show that being alone--so different from loneliness, its direct opposite, in fact--is absolutely essential to the creative life.... Meticulous, loving prose.--Kathryn Hughes "New York Times Book Review"

Part memoir, part critical study of writers and artists, part queer manifesto, At the Center of All Beauty is about Fenton Johnson's effort to live deliberately, which in his case means alone.... This is a beautifully written book.... Reading At the Center of All Beauty, I came to see that each of us, single or coupled, has access to an interior life, a center of beauty, if only, as Johnson forcefully argues, we are not afraid of silence, of listening, of solitude, and what it has to teach us.--Daniel Burr "Gay and Lesbian Review"

"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.--Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You

A work of staggering tenderness, intelligence and beauty...a new vision of self, community and home. This achingly honest and gorgeously written book should come with a warning: It will change you.--Harriet Lerner, PhD, author of The Dance of Anger

I love Fenton Johnson's sensibility. It's a joy and a balm to see the world through his eyes--and to rediscover solitude as our deepest and most powerful source of creativity and spirituality, even for people who are coupled.--Susan Cain, author of Quiet and Quiet Power

About the Author

Fenton Johnson is an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction. He teaches at Spalding University, contributes to Harper's magazine, and has been featured on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. He lives in San Francisco, California, and Tucson, Arizona.

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ *Norton agency titles; 1st edition (26 February 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 272 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0393541444
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0393541441
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 14.22 x 2.03 x 21.08 cm
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.5 out of 5 stars 80 ratings

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JC Lewis
5.0 out of 5 stars A deeply nurturing book for anyone's creative life
Reviewed in the United States on 29 March 2020
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Bill Coan
5.0 out of 5 stars Beauty Laid Bare
Reviewed in the United States on 12 March 2020
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17 people found this helpful
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vincent n palladino
4.0 out of 5 stars For Solitaries Only
Reviewed in the United States on 12 June 2020
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Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars a hymn to interiority as portal
Reviewed in the United States on 6 May 2020
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9 people found this helpful
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Jeff LeVine
5.0 out of 5 stars A deep, interesting, moving and convincing ode to solitude.
Reviewed in the United States on 28 May 2020
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6 people found this helpful
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