cover image The End of Solitude: Selected Essays on Culture and Society

The End of Solitude: Selected Essays on Culture and Society

William Deresiewicz. Holt, $29.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-85864-1

Essayist Deresiewicz (The Death of the Artist) eviscerates “groupthink” in this razor-sharp collection made up mostly of previously published pieces. Identifying the book’s unifying theme as an “attempt to defend, and, as well as I can, to enact, a certain conception of the self... developed in solitude, in fearless dialogue, by reading, through education as the nurturing of souls; embodied in original art and independent thought,” Deresiewicz is at his most trenchant when analyzing the technological and cultural forces arrayed against his preferred mode of being. He compares the links between TV and boredom—“television, by eliminating the need to learn to make use of one’s lack of occupation, prevents one from discovering how to enjoy it”—to the relationship between the internet and loneliness, alleging that social media and text messaging have helped to rob people of “the propensity for introspection” and “the capacity for solitude.” Elsewhere, Deresiewicz contends that the “culture of political correctness” at elite private colleges provides affluent students and faculty “with the ideological resources to alibi or erase their privilege.” Despite a tendency to generalize and the occasional slip into ungracious embitterment, as when he writes that having a “white penis” put two strikes against him on the academic job market, Deresiewicz anatomizes modern life with skill and fierce conviction. Readers will relish grappling with these erudite provocations. (Aug.)