At the Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life

Fenton Johnson
Published in 2020
by Norton

Although it was written prior to COVID-19 and published just as the pandemic was spreading around the globe, Fenton Johnson’s meditation on accepting and celebrating one’s solitude is a timely look at the lives and works of eleven writers and artists he calls “solitaries,” a term borrowed from Trappist monk and mystic Thomas Merton. In chapters devoted to Emily Dickinson, Zora Neale Hurston, Henry James, Henry David Thoreau, Eudora Welty, Walt Whitman, and others, Johnson, an emeritus professor of creative writing at the University of Arizona who serves on the faculty of Spalding University’s low-residency MFA program, explores the alchemy that transforms isolation and loneliness into creative solitude.