cover image The Age of Loneliness: Essays

The Age of Loneliness: Essays

Laura Marris. Graywolf, $18 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-64445-294-3

Marris, a creative writing professor at the University of Buffalo, debuts with a shattering collection that meditates on the sense of loss and isolation caused by humanity’s estrangement from the natural world. “There’s a strength—a stubbornness—to being lonely, to insisting on the importance of what’s no longer there. To wonder why you never hear a certain bird anymore,” Marris writes in the plaintive “Lost Lake,” which explores her grief over environmental destruction and the death of her nature-loving father. His memory also looms large in “Cancerine,” where the author tenderly recalls finding horseshoe crabs while exploring Connecticut’s brackish marshes with him and details how human exploitation of the arthropods (they were used as fertilizer in the 1800s and continue to be harvested for medical testing and bait) has threatened their survival. Other selections contemplate the uncanny emptiness of Mcity, a 32-acre ersatz town built in Ann Arbor, Mich., to test self-driving cars, and lament how even ostensibly restored wildlife areas carry traces of past pollution (she recalls spoiling a park picnic by warning her friends against eating the wild cherries, reminding them the park was located on a former dump). Marris combines personal and natural history to potent effect, and the elegiac prose renders palpable the distance that modernity has placed between humans and the environment. Readers will be awed. Agent: Ian Bonaparte, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Aug.)