Friday, 13 April 2012

Solitude: Something for Prosperity?

This was book group week, and an engagaing tale by Quebec writer Denis Thériault was the subject in the original French (Kirkland library) and in English translation (Atwater Library. Le facteur émotif (AKA The Postman's Round) tells the story of a 27 year old postman who becomes obsessed by writing haiku to a woman in Guadeloupe. It's funny, intelligent and rather weird, and it started out, according to Thériault, as a book about solitude.

In an interview given in Germany in 2010, Thériault says that he is quite different from his hero--not at all solitary, he works in television and is the father of a family--but that solitude was a theme he wanted to explore.

And obviously it is a subject that touches many people. In the two discussions this week, the plight of the hero was much commented on, both positively and negatively. For those worried about solitude, this week's The New Yorker is accompanying required reading. "Why Are So Many Americans Single?" the magazine's Nathan Heller asks, after citing statistics about the striking increase in the numbers of people living alone.

Many of these people are widowed, divorced, or simple loners who have either chosen or backed into their solitary state. They have the option of not sharing their lives, because they can afford to live alone. I wonder if the current economic recession will affect those who can't. Two together can live more cheaply than two apart, a fact that may become more important as incomes stagnate and the middle class becomes poorer. The same sort of dynamic operates when the young move back in with their parents in hard times--or never move out at all.

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