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Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto Paperback – January 7, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
In this compendium of everyone who was anyone who ever spent a moment alone, readers bump fleetingly into Kurt Cobain, French Resistance fighters, the Lone Ranger ("Tonto notwithstanding"), Michelangelo, Alexander Pope, John Lennon, cowboys, Saint Anthony and other solo acts. Rufus, the books editor of East Bay Express, views Degas's plain-faced dancers as "pretty ballerinas" whom the artist leaves every time he exits his studio, and Warhol's biography as "tellingly titled Loner at the Ball." She chases her motif, not so much a manifesto as a cri de coeur, through an assortment of perspectives: religion, advertising, clothes, crime, art, eccentricity, environment, literature, religion and popular culture. She also identifies "pseudoloners" like Theodore Kaczynski and Jesus Christ (who "was too good at guiding crowds to have been one of us"). There's an us/them tone to this book that makes one wonder who the audience might be. The "us" people "do not need writers to tell us how lovely apartness is"; the "them" people will surely weary of being identified as "Nonloners. The world at large. The mob." Taken in column-sized doses, Rufus may be entertaining and informative, but her book feels as if too much random information has been cut-and-pasted together.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"A founding manifesto for an organization of self-contained people.... A clever and spirited defense." -- Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2003)
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It was defiant and "in your face" but I think the author made excellent points. If you're not a loner you may find this book a little off putting but I think you'll have some insight into how loners feel.
Growing up, most people thought I was weird or odd or just a bit off simply because I hated group situations, avoided being a joiner and was just interested in things that most kids my age couldn't conceive of - and interested in pursuing those interests alone and in solitude. Although, when in groups, people tended to defer to me because I was so level headed, conscious of the bigger picture, detached in a way they were not able to be and able to articulate my thoughts in a thorough and often persuasive kind of way - I still hated being involved in groups!!
As a teen, when fitting in becomes so life or death, I shunned many of my more loner tendencies... and wound up suicidal and in counseling for three years, suffering from an identity crisis. In my 20's I was convinced, still, that there was something wrong with me that needed to be rooted out and fixed so that I could be "normal" - or, as Anneli Rufus terms it, a non-loner. Now in my mid-30's I'd finally made peace with myself and the way I am. If people thought I was odd as a kid, whoa! I've embraced that oddness now, full force. But I'm happier and more content than I've ever been in my entire life. And it was at this time of settled inner peace that I found this little gem of a book.
All the issues that Rufus tackles in Party Of One and how these issues are seen so differently between loners and non-loners were things that had crossed my mind over the years, too. I don't know how many times I've said out loud while reading this book, "How many times have I said that very same thing myself?" or "Yes, yes, yes!! That's how I feel and what I think, too!!" It never occurred to me that there were others like me. I thought I was the only weird one... but then again, it makes sense that most loners would think this about themselves simply because, as Rufus points out, loners seldom encounter other loners because by our very nature, we are anti-group so the likelihood of other loners hooking up in some sort of support group... it just wouldn't happen!
This book didn't enable me to suddenly think I was okay as a person and to stop fighting my basic nature - I came to that realization several years ago. But it was comforting in the sense that I realized I was not alone in my supposedly eccentric ways and that there's nothing that needs to be fixed because there is nothing wrong with those of us who are loners. If anything, like most loners probably tend to feel, it's the rest of the world comprised and often governed by those nutty non-loners that's a bit off center.
Not only did this book provide comfort but it also raised some additional issues that I may have thought about in passing but never brought to the front burner of consciousness. It's a book that you'll want to give to all your non-loner friends and family members so they can better understand you and it's a book you'll want to recommend to other loner friends and family members who struggle in the predominantly non-loner world. I now have a 13 year old sister who is also a bona-fide loner and who's demonstrated those clear loner characteristics since she was 2. I'm saving this book for her when she gets a bit older and starts to wonder why she is the way she is and why I and only a handful of others around her truly "get" her. It may spare her all the drama I endured before I finally found self-acceptance and made peace with my loner self.