Everybody: Searching for freedom in a constricted world

Book review: Olivia Lang’s latest work of nonfiction explores the body from multiple perspectives by using a mix of cultural criticism, biography and memoir

Olivia Laing is unafraid of uncertainty or nuance in her inquiry. Photograph: Manchester Literature Festival

Olivia Laing is unafraid of uncertainty or nuance in her inquiry. Photograph: Manchester Literature Festival

Olivia Laing has made her name as a writer of hybrid books of criticism, memoir, travelogue and biography. In To the River, her first book, she used a break-up and the loss of a job as spurs to walk the length of the river Ouse in Sussex while considering the life and work of Virginia Woolf, who drowned there in 1941. The Trip to Echo Spring draws on her life growing up in a household “under the rule of alcohol” to examine the lives of alcoholic writers. 

Laing’s third – and breakout – book, The Lonely City, is an investigation of urban loneliness, through the lens of artists such as Edward Hopper and Andy Warhol, and her own experience of being alone and heartbroken in New York City. 

The Irish Times
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